• Southeast Asian community in Seattle rallies against potential deportations

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff , Associated Press , Deedee Sun

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Community members and elected leaders took to the streets in Seattle on Friday to show their support for thousands of refugees who say they are being targeted by the Trump administration. 

    According to organizers, the rally was held in response to the potential deportation of refugees protected by a reparation agreement signed in 2008 between the U.S. and Vietnam. Click here to read the full agreement from the United States Department of State. 

    A similar rally was held in New Orleans in December.

    Advocates in New Orleans said the administration is trying to deport Vietnamese immigrants who came to the U.S. before 1995 and have been given a final order of removal by an immigration judge — generally because they committed a crime — even though the groups argue they are protected from deportation by a 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam.

    The Trump administration argues that the agreement does allow them to be deported, that the affected immigrants have been ordered to leave by a judge and that Vietnam should take them.

    The ongoing debate has concerned many in the Vietnamese community who came to the U.S. after the 1975 fall of Saigon and worry they could face persecution in Vietnam — a country where they have few, if any, relatives or connections.

    Information from the Associated Press is included in this story 


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    At the Friday rally in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, the group protested the president and the latest round of trouble tied with immigration.

    “Do the right thing. Because what do we want? Justice. And when do we want it? Now!” a speaker chanted with the crowd.

    “We are here because you were there,” another speaker said from the stage.

    They've noticed the uptick in deportations.

    KIRO7’s Deedee Sun pulled data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which shows in fiscal year 2018 and 2017, deportations of Vietnamese nationals spiked. (2015 and 2016 saw 32 and 35 deportations respectively. There were 71 deportations in 2017, and 122 deportations in fiscal year 2018.)

    “A lot of the people impacted right now are silent and they’re afraid,” said Susan Lieu, who said her parents are refugees from Vietnam.

    The issue is complicated. The United States can deport people with criminal records back to their country of citizenship. However, the U.S. and Vietnam have an agreement from 2008 that says, “Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam under this Agreement if they arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995.”

    “The 2008 MoU (memorandum of understanding) is part of the humanitarian effort to pay reparations to the violence in this region,” said another speaker.

    The Trump administration wants to re-negotiate the agreement which could potentially lead to thousands of additional deportations.

    “Eight thousand, five hundred people could receive notice if this gets overturned,” Lieu said.

    People at the rally said most of the people impacted committed their crimes years or decades ago and have already served their time.

    “Please don’t make us serve time again by separating our family,” said a mom on stage with two of her young children.

    Kristopher Larsen said he came to the U.S. as a war orphan in 1975 – and has already received his deportation order.

    “I’ve been here all my life. I don’t know anything else. I don’t have any memories of Vietnam because I was only 3 or 4 when I was supposedly evacuated,” Larsen said from the stage.

    He said he was adopted, went to college, got married, and had a happy life. But he struggled with mental health issues.

    “I tried to commit suicide three times,” Larsen said in an interview. “After a failed marriage it kind of took a hit on me, my kids were taken away from me. Not knowing how to deal with loss, I decided to end my life again,” he said with emotion in his voice.

    “So this time I figured I’d do a suicide by cop,” Larsen said.

    KIRO7 covered the case from 2004, when Larsen kidnapped a 9-year-old girl from Mercer Island and led police on a high speed chase that lasted several hours.

    He served more than 10 years for the crimes.

    Near the end of his sentence, he said he got a deportation order.

    “The day I was released, immigration came and picked me up and brought me to the Northwest Detention Center,” he said.

    Now he’s fighting that status, but worries every day.

    “You definitely live in a state of fear,” he said.

    The community is calling on local officials, to take action.

    “I’d like to see more push, more protection on refugees,” Larsen said.

    “I know that I’m not alone in wanting to channel my anger, despair, and shock into action,” another speaker said.

    They’re urging supporters to sign this petition.

    Gov. Jay Inslee’s office also showed its support Friday, sending a representative. He shared a statement from the governor which read in part, “I stand firm in my support for a diverse and inclusive society and the thousands of Vietnamese Americans who are the most recent targets of President Trump’s xenophobic attacks.”

    According to 2010 Census data, Washington State has the third largest Vietnamese population, after California and Texas.

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