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September 20, 2022

Pressley, Lowenthal, Colleagues Introduces Legislation To End Deportation Of Southeast Asian Refugees in U.S.

Text of Bill (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) introduced legislation to end the deportation of Southeast Asian refugees who came to the U.S. following the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the Secret War in Laos. Congresswomen Judy Chu (CA-27), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) are co-leads on the bill, which is also cosponsored by 14 additional House Members.

The Southeast Asian Deportation Relief Act will uphold our country’s promise to refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos by limiting the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to remove members from these communities. This legislation will prevent the deportations of these refugees and ensure access to work permits for these vulnerable people.

“We should not be deporting vulnerable community members from their homes to countries where their basic human rights and safety would be threatened—and our Southeast Asian immigrant neighbors are no exception,” Congresswoman Pressley said. “I’m proud to join Congressman Lowenthal and our colleagues on this important legislation to halt these unjust deportations and keep our promises to the community.”

“It is inhumane and un-American to simply cast aside members of our communities and deport them to a place they do not know, and where their basic human rights are not guaranteed, and in many cases abused,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “We must uphold the solemn promises we made to these refugees.“

The U.S. government recognized its responsibility to protect our allies and those impacted by our actions in the war-torn regions of Southeast Asian, resettling over 1.2 million refugees in the U.S. between 1975 and 2008.

“More than 1.2 million Southeast Asian refugees settled in the U.S. after the Vietnam War. They all deserve safety and security,” said Congresswoman Lofgren, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. “The U.S. government should not be deporting refugees to countries where they may face persecution or human rights abuses. The Southeast Asian Deportation Relief Act of 2022 will keep our promises to Southeast Asian refugees and protect them from removal.”

“We must restore the humanity to our immigration system and turn away from mandatory deportations that do not take into account an individual’s full circumstances,” Congresswoman Judy Chu said. “The Southeast Asian Deportation Relief Act of 2022, will prevent deportations of Southeast Asian refugees and ensure access to work permits for men and women with deep roots in their communities who have lived in the United States for decades as lawful permanent residents.”

“Welcoming doesn’t end at opening the door. We need to invest in resources to help people integrate so they are thriving, not just surviving. The Southeast Asian Deportation Relief Act would bring immediate relief to Southeast Asian Americans who live in daily fear of deportation. It would allow Southeast Asian Americans across the country to be able to thrive, and to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “I’m proud to help introduce this bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to end the inhumane targeting of Southeast Asian refugees and to fix our broken laws and policies that hurt our communities.”

Many of these families were resettled in difficult conditions without adequate access to mental health or socioeconomic resources while still grappling with the trauma of war. As a result, many of these individuals made mistakes when they were younger. Although many have given back and greatly contributed to their communities, over 2,000 individuals have already been deported and about 15,000 still live in the United States with a final order of removal since 1998.

Many individuals are now being removed for convictions from over two decades ago. These individuals often have U.S. citizen family members, serve as the primary caregivers in their families, have no recollection of or meaningful ties to their country of origin, and hold deep roots in their local communities. 

To read the full text of the bill, click here.