Press Release – Rumors of Imminent Deportations Send Chills Throughout Cambodian American Community


Contact: Many Uch (206) 679-2084 /

Ammara Hun (206) 331-8302 /



Diverse communities rally to demand fairness and due process

SEATTLE – As word spread about an impending shipment of deportees to Cambodia this month, scores of people gathered today in front of the Federal Building to speak out against the impacts of deportations on their families and communities. In addition to Cambodian Americans, speakers included those whose family members could be deported if the United States were to sign repatriation agreements with countries like Vietnam and Laos.

“I am a refugee from Cambodia,” said Sara Man, a 30-year-old resident of Federal Way. She and others described the unique conditions facing refugee families from Southeast Asia. “My family lived through the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, where the Communists killed over a million people under the leadership of Pol Pot.”

In addition to family separation and displacement after living for decades in the United States, many individuals fear retribution for their role in assisting the United States during the war in Southeast Asia.

“The Laotians, including the Hmong, Khamu and Mien, helped the CIA during the Vietnam War,” said Chio Saeteurn, who arrived in the United States as a refugee from Laos at the age of seven. “Deportation back to our native country could mean political persecution.”

Approximately 2,000 Cambodian Americans are now awaiting deportation, many as a result of harsh 1996 laws that vastly expanded the number of “aggravated felony” crimes making non-citizens deportable. These include non-violent and minor offenses. The 1996 laws were applied retroactively, affecting many refugees whose mistakes occurred when they were teens or young adults, and who have since served their sentences, established their own families, and became law-abiding community members.

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Today, deepening fears of impending deportation has created a chilling effect in Cambodian American communities here and across the country.

“Many people who are affected by this issue are afraid to speak out,” said organizer Many Uch of the Refugee Justice Project. “But we need to raise public awareness of the effect this is having on our families and communities. We, as Cambodian Americans, stand in solidarity with other immigrant and refugee communities who are being targeted by laws that are fundamentally unjust,” he said.

In July, U.S. and Cambodian officials interviewed over 100 Cambodian Americans in San Diego in preparation for travel documents needed for deportation to Cambodia. Community members in Seattle, as well as in other cities across the country, have heard rumors that the next shipment of deportees to Cambodia will take place within the month.

“Many people who face deportation don’t have access to affordable legal representation,” said Uch. “And since 1996, many who are deported because of ‘aggravated felonies’ don’t get a hearing in front of a judge. We are asking for a restoration of due process.”

Unlike in the criminal justice system, indigent defendants in immigration cases are not provided with free legal counsel. Moreover, the 1996 laws eliminated the right to judicial review on a case-by-case basis for those who committed “aggravated felonies”, a term that now includes offenses as minor as shoplifting.

Many Chout Uch
10035 16th ave SW
Seattle WA 98146
206-679-2084 cell
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