Statement from Cambodian Deportees

Open Letter from Cambodian Deportees to Our Community in the United States

For Immediate Release by 1Love Cambodia, Phnom Penh: Thursday April 21, 2016

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Khmer New Year Southwest Temple, Philly: Photo by Jeff Lek, Planetary P

To Our Khmer-American Community,

Khmer New Year has just passed us. New Year is about unity, celebration, family, and community. It’s about having fun, being happy, eating, laughing, and throwing baby powder on each other. It’s about all the blessings, offerings, and honor we give to our ancestors and the struggles of the generations before us that gave us life today. And with that, from Cambodia, our deportee community wishes you all so much success, happiness and prosperity in this new year.

We are 1Love Cambodia. We are a group of Khmer-American deportees living in Cambodia who have been separated by deportation from our grandparents, parents, siblings, children, cousins, and families and communities as a whole. We were adopted children of war – refugees – to the US, resettled with a history of trauma into unjust systems and surroundings that led us to make mistakes that would forever label us “Criminal Aliens” by the US government and subject to permanent deportation. We are not perfect – we are human. We recognize the harm we have caused, and we live to amend that harm everyday because we believe in healing and accountability for our actions. We also believe in our human ability to change and be better people in the world for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

In this New Year we call upon you, our Khmer-American community, with great respect and humility, to re-commit to fighting for unity, change, and justice for all our families impacted by deportation. We know that many of you have fought for us since the 1996 US immigration laws passed, and since 2002 when the Cambodia-US Repatriation Agreement was signed and the separation of families in our community by deportation began. As deportees, we know the pain and trauma of this experience very deeply. And we know it brings us stress to fight against a system that seems unbreakable. As a deportee community, it has taken us over a decade of trying and failing, of believing and doubting, to finally come to this moment when we are able to trust our vision enough to stand up and fight, no matter the haters and the barriers, and throw down together to right this wrong that impacts our community as a whole.

We’re not just fighting for us over here. We are fighting for all of our Khmer people who have endured family separation and destruction too many times in one lifetime, from war and genocide to incarceration to deportation. We’re fighting for our spouses who are battling against all odds to live normal lives, we’re fighting for our children who are struggling to believe in a world that takes their parents away from them, we’re fighting for our parents and grandparents who want us to take care of them in their old age and pass them on to the next life with dignity and family unity. We’re fighting for all of our relatives, neighbors, and friends of all communities, who shouldn’t have to live with the reality of this injustice.

We believe that we as a people, as human beings, deserve more. And we know you all have been working hard to create a better tomorrow for our community in the US. What we ask of you, our people, is that while you continue to work towards a better future for our community – don’t forget about us. We know we are on the other side of the world – our morning is your night, and our night is your morning – but we are part of your community, we are part of your family. We are here, and we are living, surviving, and thriving with the same determination that made our refugee community thrive in a new land over 30 years ago. And we are fighting for what’s right. No matter the cost.

We have seen from a distance the political divisions in our community in the US. And we understand where it comes from, but we want to see our people unite as one and stick together to fight for what’s right, to fight for families to be together. To strengthen one another instead of beating each other down. We have to support, believe, and make a change for Khmer-American families, whether they are in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Lowell, Long Beach, Stockton, Philly, Seattle, or the Bronx. We are one community – and our fight is to keep families together, no matter where they are.

We are fighting for a revision to the Cambodia-US Repatriation Agreement that is just and fair, a revision that will end the breaking apart of refugee families, and that will be applied retroactively, so that those of us who have been deported already will have the right to return and support our families. We want a revision that will end deportation and displacement, and reunite families.

We are now in the Year of the Monkey. This is our year to be inventive, our year to remember, recall, and build on our knowledge, our year to be skillful and clever. This is our year to take risks, be fierce, and face our challenges together with wit and imagination – we believe in #RefugeeResilience, the #Right2Family, and the #Right2Return! Let our voices be heard together from Cambodia to the US!

To support this movement, we ask you to take some time and do a few things:

  • WATCH AND SHARE Sincerely Yours, a video made by 1Love Cambodia that details the family struggle of deportation from our perspective
  • WATCH AND SHARE SEAFN Campaign Launch Video, made by 1Love US that details the movement and strategy of revising the Cambodia-US Repatriation Agreement
  • SIGN UP for updates to stay tuned for how you can play your part in making this change happen for our community!

Sincerely Yours,

CHEA Sacramento, CA

SOPHEA Long Beach, CA

VOE Philadelphia, PA

SAMNANG Long Beach, CA

JOKE Long Beach, CA

STACIE Long Beach, CA

CHINA Long Beach, CA

WICCED San Diego, CA

SLIMM Long Beach, CA

THAI BOU Stockton, CA

MOUT Philadelphia, PA

PACKER Long Beach, CA

ZAR Modesto, CA

B Tacoma, WA

AB Sacramento, CA

KHAN Stockton, CA

BONX San Diego, CA

DETPOUN Boston, MA

VICHHEKA Stockton, CA

RY MAM Long Beach, CA

BORA Modesto, CA

BUCK Philadelphia, PA

SAMBO Tacoma, WA

SPADE Stockton, CA

BUNTEANG CHAY Fresno, CA

KAY-KAY Long Beach, CA

SHHORT Bowling Green, KY

SOKUSH Modesto, CA

CAM Lowell, MA

FISH Philadelphia, PA

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