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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SEAFN Campaign Series: VIDEO 1 Our History, Our Survival

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They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.

Mexican Proverb

This year, 2015, marks 40 years since the first Southeast Asian refugees began being resettled in the US after more than two decades of US wars in the region. As we reflect on our displacement 40 years ago, we reckon with continuing displacement today in the form of US deportation. To end the cycle of displacement in our generation, we have to start from the beginning and ask ourselves: Where did we come from? And why are we here in the first place?

To start answering these questions, we released VIDEO 1: Our History, Our Survival on November 21st to begin our SEAFN Campaign Series following the release of our SEAFN Campaign Launch Video on October 24th. This series will engage community to organize and take action in our campaign to end deportation and displacement, and reunite families. The stories, struggles, and visions of our community will build a grounded and deeper narrative of the Southeast Asian experience. The videos will be released on the third Saturday of every month till April 2016.

SEAFN CAMPAIGN SERIES

  • Saturday October 24th – CAMPAIGN LAUNCH VIDEO
  • Saturday November 21st – VIDEO 1: Our History, Our Survival
  • Saturday December 19th – VIDEO 2: Our Resettlement
  • Saturday January 16th – VIDEO 3: Deportation
  • Saturday February 20th – VIDEO 4: Deportee Community
  • Saturday March 19th – VIDEO 5: Our Fight
  • Saturday April 16th – VIDEO 6: Our Future

VIDEO 1: CALL TO ACTION!

We call on our family, friends, & allies to sign on to this SEAFN CAMPAIGN SOLIDARITY LETTER, & let us know how you can commit to supporting this movement to end deportation & displacement, & reunite families. SIGN TODAY!

SEAFN CAMPAIGN IN NBC NEWS!

Forty Years After Resettlement, Thousands of Southeast Asian Refugees Face DeportationJustine Calma NBC News
“How many times in one lifetime can you be displaced?” ~Mia-lia Boua Kiernan, 1Love

See below the link to VIDEO 1: Our History, Our Survival and feel free to use this Info Sheet if you organize a viewing with family, friends or colleagues.

Press Release: National Campaign Launch to #EndDisplacement of our Communities, Oct 24th, 2015

For Immediate Release
Saturday, October 24th, 2015

National Campaign Launch to End Deportation in Southeast Asian American Communities

Philadelphia, PA – This year, 2015, marks 40 years since Southeast Asian communities resettled in the United States after displacement from our home countries (Lao, Cambodia, and Vietnam) due to US wars in Southeast Asia. It is in this year that we rise up as a UNITED Southeast Asian American community and demand an end to further displacement of our people by deportation.

For over two decades, the Southeast Asian American community has been fighting deportation – since the passing of the 1996 U.S. immigration laws and the signing of the Repatriation Agreement between the U.S. and Cambodia. We have been placed at the margins of criminal justice, U.S. immigration laws, and foreign policy. In the past, the fight was focused on overturning policies that target our community members with past criminal convictions, and their families. We see now, that the fight is in the streets of our community and with the deportees in Cambodia, Lao, and Vietnam, and must address repatriation agreements between the US and our home countries.

In this 40th year, the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) and 1LoveMovement presents the community with a new strategy and renewed energy!

During September 2015, 1Love Movement toured the United States to capture the struggles, voices, and visions of Southeast Asian community impacted by deportation. As a result of the tour—with love, tears, and support from the community, we will release a campaign launch video that showcases the stories of a community impacted by displacement and deportation. On this day, over 15 cities in the US and abroad will be hosting gatherings for the national launch of the campaign video. These cities include: Philadelphia, PA; Bronx, NY; Kansas City, KS; Bronx, NY; Providence, RI; St. Paul, MN; Madison, WI; Stockton, CA; San Diego, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Orange County, CA; Oakland, CA; Charlotte, NC; Washington, D.C; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Furthermore, from October 2015 until April 2016, 1Love Movement will release one video every month to build a deeper understanding, share community stories, build power for our community, and a vision for the future.

For more information, please e-mail us at 1lovemovement2010@gmail.com. Visit our websites: 1lovemovement.wordpress.com or seafn.org | Follow us on Facebook: 1 LoveMovement / SEAFN-Southeast Asian Freedom Network | Instagram:@1lovemovement | Twitter: @1lovemovement1 / @SEAFN1

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The Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) is a national collective of Southeast Asian grassroots organizing groups that works towards radical and transformational change led by those most impacted by systemic injustice.

Press Release: #SEAFN2Geneva fights deportation at the United Nations!

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For Immediate Release: Wednesday March 18, 2015

Activists call for an end to US deportations to Cambodia at the United Nations

Geneva, Switzerland – Naroen Chhin, Chanravy Proeung, and Chhaya Chhoum hail from Cambodian-American communities in Philadelphia, Providence, and the Bronx. This week they represent the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) delegation to the United Nations for the 22nd Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United States of America with the US Human Rights Network. The UPR is a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council to review the human rights performance of all 193 UN Member States. The US is reviewed every four years, and this time will include the voices of Cambodian-American communities calling for an end to US deportations to Cambodia.

The SEAFN delegation will cite US human rights violations against the Cambodian community from 8 years of illegal US bombing of the Cambodian countryside beginning in 1965, to the secret signing of the US-Cambodia Repatriation Agreement that began the deportation crisis in the Cambodian-American community in 2002. SEAFN will call for “immediate recourse to begin to rectify over five decades of US human rights violations that have torn Cambodian families apart from Cambodia to the US, and back again.”

Chhaya Chhoum of Mekong NYC, stated, “US militarism in Southeast Asia led our country into genocide and war. Our families continue to experience deep trauma, and we must organize to heal our communities every day, this includes holding the US accountable for these conditions in our families and communities.” In addition to war trauma, “As Cambodian-Americans we were placed into a system of policing, criminalization, and incarceration rooted in structural racism and discrimination. On top of that, the 1996 US immigration laws took away our right to due process and fairness. We didn’t stand a chance against the US School-to-Prison-to-Deportation Pipeline,” said Naroen Chhin of 1Love Movement.

Citing systemic US violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights against the Cambodian community over the last 50 years – including Right to Life, Liberty and Security; Right to Education; Right to Due Process; Right to Family Unity; and Right to Democracy – the SEAFN delegation will call for an immediate suspension of all US deportations to Cambodia, an open review process of the US-Cambodia Repatriation Agreement that prioritizes democratic oversight and input from directly impacted communities, and the right to return. Chanravy Proeung, National Organizer of the Southeast Asian Freedom Network stated, “We have been rooted in an intergenerational struggle over the last five decades to keep our families together against unjust forces of US militarism, war, systemic poverty, education inequity, imprisonment, institutionalized racism, discrimination, and deportation. With over 500 Cambodian-American families broken apart since 2002, and over 4000 more awaiting the same fate, our human rights fight today, is deportation.”

  • Full document of US human rights violations and SEAFN demands HERE
  • More information on the Universal Periodic Review process HERE
  • Follow #SEAFN2Geneva on social media HERE

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The Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) is a national collective of Southeast Asian grassroots organizing groups that works towards radical and transformational change led by those most impacted by systemic injustice.

SEAFN Member Groups: 1Love Movement, Freedom Inc., ManForward, Mekong NYC, Providence Youth Student Movement, SOY-Shades of Yellow, and VAYLA New Orleans.

40 YEARS LATER: US HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS & THE DEPORTATION OF CAMBODIAN-AMERICAN REFUGEES

The Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America

Second Cycle | Twenty-Second Session of the UPR | Human Rights Council

Southeast Asian Freedom Network 

2015 marks 40 years since Southeast Asian refugee communities were displaced by militarism and war, and began being resettled in the US. In recognition of our community’s deep resilience and power in the face of struggle, we continue our fight for justice and declare the following systemic US human rights violations against the Cambodian community over the course of the last five decades:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3. Right to Life, Liberty and Security Between 1965-1973 the US dropped 2,756,941 tons of bombs, in a secret and illegal military campaign, across the countryside of Cambodia, which was an internationally declared neutral country. The destruction of 8 years of bombing led Cambodia into the hands of the rising, and genocidal leadership of the Khmer Rouge. April 17, 2015 will mark 40 years since the Khmer Rouge marched on Phnom Penh and vacated the city, forcibly leading families and children into the Killing Fields for the next 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days. During this time nearly 2 million people, approximately 21% of our population, lost their lives to genocide.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25. Right to Food, Shelter and Health Beginning in the 1970s, there was a mass influx of Southeast Asians to the US due to war and political upheavals in their countries. A total of 1,146,650 Southeast Asians were resettled in the US from 1975-2002. Upon our arrival, the structures of support needed for our community to heal, survive, and grow, were not in place. Families were exploited for cheap labor, apartments and houses were falling apart, and as refugees we experienced deep trauma and mental health issues. A 2004 survey revealed that 70% of Cambodian-Americans exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the loss of family members, experience of labor camps, and war.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26. Right to Education, & Article 7. Right to Equality Before the Law Most Southeast Asian refugees were resettled into inhumane conditions in impoverished neighborhoods, making us vulnerable to poverty, crime, violence, structural disadvantage, racism, discrimination and profiling. Many young people fell through the cracks in an under-resourced education system unfit to meet their needs, leaving only 65% of Cambodian-American youth graduating from high school. Many enter into a highly functional and highly funded School-to-Prison Pipeline. Law enforcement agencies in cities across the country began coding Cambodian communities as “gang infested” and we were surveilled and profiled for arrest and incarceration. Over-policing of our community led to racial profiling, police brutality, and high incarceration rates, higher than any other Asian ethnic group in relation to the size of our population.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 10. Right to Due Process, Article 16. Right to Family Unity, & Article 9. Right to Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Exile In 1996, the US passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). These laws expanded “aggravated felony” to include offenses that are neither aggravated nor felonius under criminal justice law, but lead to deportation under immigration law. Judicial discretion and individualized deportation hearings were eliminated for those being deported for such “aggravated felonies,” leaving individuals stripped of their right to due process. Deportation for “aggravated felonies” also became permanent with no right to return, and was applied retroactively, leading to international human rights violations regarding proportionality of punishment, double jeopardy, and fairness under the law.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 21. Right to Democracy On March 22, 2002 the US signed a Repatriation Agreement with Cambodia and began deporting Cambodian-Americans. This agreement was signed without transparency, insight, or accountability to the community impacted. It was signed swiftly and secretly. Repatriation Agreements must be seen as human rights contracts, because they impact the livelihood and survival of individuals and families. These agreements need to reflect the unique conditions and experiences of the diaspora they apply to, and participating countries must be accountable to the impact of deportation on the diaspora, as well as the history and conditions of their displacement. As such, the creation of such agreements must be done through transparent, open, and democratic processes that prioritize the will of the people and insight of directly impacted communities.


As a Cambodian-American refugee community, we have been rooted in an intergenerational struggle over the last five decades to keep our families together against unjust forces of US militarism, war, systemic poverty, education inequity, imprisonment, institutionalized racism, discrimination, and deportation. With over 500 Cambodian-American families broken apart since 2002, and over 4000 more awaiting the same fate, our human rights fight today, is deportation.

REQUESTED ACTION

We call for immediate recourse to begin to rectify over five decades of US human rights violations that have torn Cambodian families apart from Cambodia to the US, and back again:

  1. We call for an immediate suspension of US deportations to Cambodia.
  2. We call for an open review process of the US-Cambodia Repatriation Agreement, which includes and prioritizes democratic oversight and input of impacted communities in the US and Cambodia.
  3. We call for amendments to the Repatriation Agreement that tailor its impacts to consider the individual and community experience of US human rights violations, and will protect those with these experiences from deportation.
  4. We call for amendments to the Repatriation Agreement that ensure humane, just, and fair structures of support for impacted families and individuals in the US and Cambodia, including economic stability, human and social services, employment infrastructure, visitation rights, and the right to return.

QUESTIONS TO THE US GOVERNMENT

  1. Will the United States commit to suspending US deportations to Cambodia until human rights issues can be rectified through amendments to the US-Cambodia Repatriation Agreement?
  2. Will the United States commit to undergoing an open review process of the current Repatriation Agreement with Cambodia which includes and prioritizes democratic oversight and input of impacted communities in the US and Cambodia?

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The Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) is a national collective of Southeast Asian grassroots organizing groups that works towards radical & transformational change led by those most impacted by systemic injustice.

SEAFN Member Groups: 1Love Movement, Freedom Inc., ManForward, Mekong NYC, Providence Youth Student Movement, SOY-Shades of Yellow, and VAYLA New Orleans.