Urgent – Act Now to Stop the Deportation of Cambodian Refugees

National Lawyers Guild International

As we stand against the entire system of detention, deportation and border apartheid imposed by the United States government, the National Lawyers Guild International Committee expresses our strongest outrage at the targeted deportation of Cambodians, most of whom came to the United States as refugees. Next Monday, on December 17, the Trump administration is planning to deport the largest group of Cambodians yet. These deportations have targeted mostly Cambodians who came to the United States as refugees from the devastation caused by the U.S. itself, first in Vietnam war then in bombardment of Cambodia itself.

The U.S. invasion and bombing of Cambodia dropped 2.7 million tons of explosives across the country. The devastation of Cambodia played a major role in the development of the Cambodian civil war and the establishment of the brutal Khmer Rouge government, under which over 1.7 million Cambodians were estimated to be killed. That government finally fell after Vietnam responded to the massacre of a Vietnamese village militarily, after which the crimes of the Cambodian government were revealed. In response, the United States imposed additional sanctions on Vietnam and blocked the country from receiving IMF aid. Even after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the U.S. fought for it to keep the Cambodian seat at the United Nations and backed its military remnants with up to $10 million annually in aid to fight the new Cambodian government attempting to rebuild the country.

The U.S.-sponsored devastation of Cambodia drove many refugees to the United States, fleeing massacres and persecution. Despite this history, the U.S. government has worked to massively expand the number of Cambodians eligible for deportation. People who came to the U.S. before 1995, people with green cards, people brought to the country as children who have no memories of Cambodia – all are scheduled for deportation on the basis of criminal convictions in the United States. In many cases, people have been free of contact with the criminal justice system for years; many would have been eligible for citizenship had they applied earlier in the process.

When the Cambodian government protested the deportation of these sectors of people, citing concerns for their human rights, the Trump administration responded with some of its most common tactics: visa sanctions, travel bans and a threat of further sanctions. Since February 2018, Cambodia has seen a dramatic increase in the number of deportations from the United States. Estimates indicate that there are now 56 Cambodians detained by ICE and nearly 1,800 more with outstanding deportation orders.

As horrifying as the Cambodian example is, it is far from unusual. Government statements and right-wing politicians, including those at the highest levels of the Trump administration, have stoked fear, racism and hatred directed at immigrants and refugees. This has taken place not only in the United States but also throughout Europe. There are two, intertwined issues present here: people’s right to migrate and right to asylum, and the responsibility of the United States – and European governments – for creating the conditions in the first place that force people to flee their homes. People have been forced to flee from Honduras, El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America due to violence and devastation caused in large part by U.S. imperial policy. The 2009 Honduras coup is one of the most visible of these examples.

We also note that climate change also plays a critical role in forcing people from their homes. This catastrophic environmental situation has been overwhelmingly caused by the massive capitalist development of the Global North, particularly the extractive industries which often target natural resources in the very countries from which migrants have been forced to flee.


Deportation is only the latest devastation imposed on these communities by the United States government. We urge people of conscience to sign this petition by Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus- https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-the-deportation-of-cambodian-refugees  to urge the Cambodian government to defend its nationals against these unjust deportations and to contact their members of Congress:  https://www.callmycongress.com/. to call upon them to stop the deportation of Cambodians. We also raise our voice once more to stop the detention, criminalization and deportation of migrants and instead respect people’s right to seek safety. Further, we note that U.S. wars, interventions, sanctions and bombing are responsible for forcibly displacing people around the world from their homes. Ending these U.S. attacks on the peoples of the world is essential to achieving even the first steps toward global migrant justice.

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