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Minneapolis rally to stop deportation of Cambodian refugees

By staff

Minneapolis protest against deportation of Cambodian refugees.

Minneapolis, MN – A hundred people rallied in Minneapolis Sept. 14, calling for a stop to the deportation of several Twin Cities-area Cambodian (Khmer) refugees who have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The rush hour rally at 12th Street and Washington Avenue near the Interstate 35W highway entrance sought to raise awareness about the urgent situation. Many drivers honked and waved to show their support as people chanted against deportation and waved signs such as “Don’t deport Khmer refugees,” and “Stop deportation of war victims.”

During the rally, a small group of family members of the detained men and community leaders had a meeting with a member of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s staff. After the meeting, they reported to the rally that the meeting was productive and they will continue to work with her office and also encourage Minnesota’s other elected officials to intervene to help stop these deportations.

In late August, at least seven Cambodian refugees in the Twin Cities area were detained by ICE, separated from their families, and informed that they will be deported to Cambodia. These detentions and pending deportations are part of a wave of deportations hitting Cambodian families around the country. Many Cambodians became refugees in the context of the U.S. bombing of Cambodia in the late 1960s and 1970s during the Vietnam War, and the subsequent political upheaval in Cambodia. Several of the people facing deportation were born in refugee camps and later migrated as refugees to the U.S. They have U.S. legal residency, but due to punitive immigration laws passed in 1996 and an agreement between the U.S. and Cambodia in 2002 in the aftermath of 9/11, they are now subject to deportation because of felonies in their distant past for which they have already been punished.

According to Giselda Gutierrez of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), “The United States should not be in the business of deporting war refugees and tearing apart families. They have already been through enough. We call on Minnesota’s elected officials to intervene to keep these families together and stop these unjust deportations.”

According to the spouse of one of the men facing deportation, “Cambodians and many other Southeast Asians have already sacrificed so much, this is injustice and double jeopardy with a lifetime punishment of returning to a country they’ve never known as home. The United States is their home. They made mistakes, had their punishment and should not be given a lifetime deportation sentence.”

The rally was organized by a coalition of groups including MIRAC's No More Deportations Campaign, the 1Love Movement, Manforward, Asian American Organizing project, Rad Azn, Asian American Pacific Islander Desi, Freedom Inc, IKARE, and Watt Munnisotaram. The families and organizations will continue to raise awareness and try to get Minnesota’s elected officials and ICE to stop these unjust deportations.

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