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US-Cambodians Assail Deportation Policy

Cambodians living in the US who have seen loved ones deported under a continuing US policy say the US and Cambodian governments must compensate the families and ensure good living conditions for those sent back.

Since mid-2002, the US has followed a policy to send non-citizens convicted of crimes back to Cambodia, following time served time in US detention.

Yi Sam’s husband was one of them. A resident of Lowell, Mass., with two young daughters, Yi Sam said her husband, Khis Pross, is being punished twice for his crimes. The deportation policy was inhumane and unjust, she said. Both daughters cry day and night and have difficulty eating and sleeping, she said.

“Before, my husband always helped pay the cost of living,” she said. “But now I have no one to help me with this.”

The deportation policy was “a kind of racism,” she said. “They kick them out like kicking dogs and cats.”

Another Lowell resident, Mao Sophann, said the deportation policy had brought much hardship to separated families, as returnees find it difficult to find work in Cambodia.

“They separate or break from their families,” he said. “It is terrible, and the children and wives are still here.”

“The Cambodian and American governments should compensate them, take care of their livelihoods and provide enough education to the deportee’s family,” he added.

Senior government advisor Om Yintieng said the Cambodian government had little choice but to accept the deportations.

“If we don’t accept them, [the US] will close issuing visas to Cambodian people who want to go to America,” he said. “What can we do? Do you think we are so stupid with this? Don’t you know that our Khmer people have difficulty with that?”

Dimple Rana is an advocacy leader with the group Deport Diaspora, in Lowell. She said immigration judges in the US do not allow Cambodian immigrants facing deportation to review their cases.

“People who have gone in front of immigration, they have no justice, and they have no due process,” she said. “Their cases are not reviewed. The judges can’t look at their cases and say, ‘OK, this person has children who are US citizens, this person has a wife or husband who is a US citizen, this person, this person has not committed a crime for many years, this person is a tax-payer in the United States.’ All these factors, the immigration judges don’t have the right to look at.”

John Johnson, a US Embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh, said the US funds a local organization to help deportees learn to read and write Khmer and helps make the adjustment of deportees “as smooth as possible.”