The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) based in D.C. has noted a significant rise in the detention and removal of Cambodian Americans from Lowell, MA; Long Beach, CA; and Philadelphia, PA. Communities have organized prayer vigils in Lowell and Philadelphia in mid-August and a rally in Philadelphia last week to protest the deportations of community members. They have also demanded changes to immigration policies.
SEARAC notes, "Cambodian Americans escaped the genocide of the Pol Pot regime in the 1970s and were resettled largely in impoverished areas of the country that lacked support for families adjusting to life in a new country. Now, many are being forcibly returned to that country that they once fled in fear for their lives. 1996 immigration laws removed the ability of immigration judges to review each case based on individual circumstances. The laws are also applied retroactively."
It is calling for the following policy changes:
- Restore judicial discretion to allow immigration judges the ability to review and determine deportation cases on an individual basis;
- Narrow the definition of "aggravated felony" under immigration law to reflect proportionality in the American system of justice;
- Stop the retroactive application of the law;
- Stop the deportation of individuals who were admitted to the U.S. as refugees.