What I'm Reading About the Imminent Vietnamese American Deportations

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Trump Moves to Deport Vietnam War Refugees | Charles Dunst and Krishnadev Calamur for The Atlantic
To summarize, the Trump administration has declared that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country prior to the establishment of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the United States in 1995 may be deported. This violates a Washington-Hanoi agreement reached in 2008 that specifically allows pre-1995 migrants to stay, primarily because of their status as refugees of the Vietnam War.
Many pre-1995 arrivals, all of whom were previously protected under the 2008 agreement by both the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, were refugees from the Vietnam War. Some are the children of those who once allied with American and South Vietnamese forces, an attribute that renders them undesirable to the current regime in Hanoi, which imputes anti-regime beliefs to the children of those who opposed North Vietnam. This anti-Communist constituency includes minorities such as the children of the American-allied Montagnards, who are persecuted in Vietnam for both their ethnicity and Christian religion.
Untangling Moves to Deport Vietnamese Immigrants | Jill Cowan for The New York Times
Note: I also want to add that I would understand the deportation of any Vietnamese immigrants who had committed serious crimes. But the vast majority of those at risk for deportation were convicted of very minor infractions, from marijuana possession to driving under the influence as teenagers. But they stand a serious chance of persecution if forced to return to Vietnam for war crimes (siding with the United States during the Vietnam War).
Say I’m a member of the Vietnamese community in California and I don’t have a criminal conviction. Why should I be concerned?These are people that fled their country with nothing and were resettled in the U.S., often in poverty-stricken neighborhoods with gang violence. They were traumatized from the war. There are a lot of people who may have criminal convictions and haven’t talked about it.
Former U.S. Ambassador To Vietnam Criticizes Plan To Deport Vietnamese Refugees | Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius and Michel Martin for NPR
MARTIN: What is your sense of how these people would be received if they were deported to Vietnam? OSIUS: I know for a fact they won't be treated well at all. They don't have any family here anymore. All their families are in the United States. They have no way of getting a job here because they won't be able to be issued identity cards. If they're the children of American servicemen, they won't be trusted. They won't be able to get jobs. They will most likely end up in prison. And this future administration will consider them human rights cases and try to get them back to the United States. It doesn't make sense to be sending these people to Vietnam.
Related: 
All Immigrants Deserve to Not Just Arrive, but Also to Thrive | Quyen Dinh, MPP for Reappropriate
This story of growing up on free lunch programs, food stamps, and WIC is not just my story alone, but that of the more than one million Southeast Asians from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam who found refuge in America after fleeing war-torn countries, oftentimes with nothing but the clothes on their back.
Today, even after more than 40 years of being in the United States, Southeast Asian American families continue to face challenges of poverty.  According to the US Census, 11% of Lao families, 13% of Vietnamese families, 14.9% of Cambodian families, and 16.3% of Hmong families live below the poverty line.
Because of high rates of poverty, our communities rely on government assistance programs such as SNAP (previously food stamps), Medicaid, and housing assistance.
 All immigrants to this country, whether refugee or not, should have the right not just to arrive but thrive by building healthy families through the use of governmental assistance programs.
Literature:
The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir | Thi Bui
An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam from debut author Thi Bui. This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.
 At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.
 In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.
Here's an excerpt from Pen America.

The Sympathizer | Viet Thanh Nguyen
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

The Eaves of Heaven | Andrew X. Pham
From Andrew X. Pham, the award-winning author of Catfish and Mandala, a son’s searing memoir of his Vietnamese father’s experiences over the course of three wars.
Once wealthy landowners, Thong Van Pham’s family was shattered by the tumultuous events of the twentieth century: the festering French occupation of Indochina, the Japanese invasion during World War II, and the Vietnam War.
Told in dazzling chapters that alternate between events in the past and those closer to the present, The Eaves of Heaven brilliantly re-creates the trials of everyday life in Vietnam as endured by one man, from the fall of Hanoi and the collapse of French colonialism to the frenzied evacuation of Saigon. Pham offers a rare portal into a lost world as he chronicles Thong Van Pham’s heartbreaks, triumphs, and bizarre reversals of fortune, whether as a South Vietnamese soldier pinned down by enemy fire, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese under brutal interrogation, or a refugee desperately trying to escape Vietnam after the last American helicopter has abandoned Saigon. This is the story of a man caught in the maelstrom of twentieth-century politics, a gripping memoir told with the urgency of a wartime dispatch by a writer of surpassing talent.

Song I Sing | Bao Phi
(from Reverse Racism)
Of course, this may lead to a war. Just to be safe, I'm gonna forcibly remove white American people from their homes because I feel they are a threat to national security. They can stay at the dog-racing tracks until we are sure that they are good and loyal to this country. And while they're gone, I will take everything they ever owned. I will recruit white people to fight against other white people, promising we'll take care of them if things go wrong, but if things go wrong and white people find their way into overcrowded planes and leaky boats to seek refuge in Asian America, I'll turn them away and say "Sorry! No room."

Petition: WE ARE WATCHING! SIGN-ON AGAINST AMENDMENTS TO US-VIETNAM REPATRIATION AGREEMENT 2008
On behalf of the undersigned Vietnamese community members, and local, state, and national immigrant, civil rights, and human rights organizations, we urge you to sign-on to protect our families and community members. We demand that the protections afforded to Vietnamese immigrants under the current U.S.-Vietnam repatriation agreement be maintained and oppose any amendments that further threaten to tear apart families and upend communities. Your signature will let the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Vietnam know the community is watching.


I have a lot of feelings that, at the moment, will only come out spiteful and damning so zero personal commentary this time.*
Love,
LC

*ps,
I lied. Here's the gist of it: fuck y'all, Asian American or not, who are so fucking obsessed with your post-graduate trips to Southeast Asia, who celebrated Asian American diversity and representation in the media this year, and never fucking show up for the/our/your people. Do better. We can care and we can celebrate. We can contain multitudes. We can carry it all.

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