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Obama’s Immigration Plan Finds Support from Some Cambodians

Members of the New York Immigration Coalition watch President Barack Obama's televised speech about his executive order Thursday evening.

President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration has found favor among some Cambodians living in the US, who sympathize with the fear of deportation under current policies.

Cambodians living in various states in the US say they want to see laws that allow illegal immigrants to legally live in here.

In Suon, a 61-year-old social worker in Oakland, California, said the current situation for many Cambodians is “a mess,” where “illegal immigrants are hiding and working.” He said he supported a policy that would help make many of them legal.

Policies should not seek to deport many of them, but to “rescue them,” he said. Many are exploited, hired illegally, where they are not protected and don’t pay taxes, he said. He supports Obama’s initiative, for the good of families and economic improvement, he said.

Ho Teng, a 69-year-old retired carpenter in Philadelphia, said laws can be changed, and immigration should be reformed, especially by the Republican and Democratic parties working together.

That’s especially true for people who have moved to the US in search of democratic freedoms, he said. “It’s not fair” to deport people who have lived in the US for years, he said.

“When they live here, it means that they are working hard and this is their home,” he said. “And they keep running or hiding here and there and living here, even though it’s illegal.” Deportation becomes a “tremendous disappointment,” he said. “We can compare that to ourselves. If that happened to us, how disappointed would we be?”

Those who are here illegally and then deported face hardships in their countries of origin, said Yap Kim Tung, a rights activists in Virginia. A policy debate is needed, he said, while acknowledging the US, “they don’t kick and beat people. They allow them to have rights, to access lawyers and procedures and due process. So they are not acting cruelly, as we see in other countries.”

For Larry Seng, a worker at Boeing, in Seattle, the law needs reformed to help people work legally in the US and pay taxes. As a former refugee, he understands the search for freedom that can lead a person to America, he said. “They are seeking to live in a place that provides them with happiness for their families and a future for their children.”