The Trump Administration Wants to Deport Vietnam War Refugees Using a Decade-Old Agreement

The Trump administration has reinterpreted a 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam in an apparent bid to allow for the deportation of Vietnamese people who arrived in the U.S. before 1995, including Vietnam War refugees.

The revelation was first reported by The Atlantic, with the spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi James Thrower telling the magazine that the Trump administration had reinterpreted the 2008 agreement, signed under the George W. Bush administration, to allow for the deportations.

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The State Department confirmed Thrower's assertions to Newsweek, with a spokesperson stating that while the procedures associated with the 2008 agreement do not apply to Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, it does not explicitly preclude the removal of pre-1995 cases.

The spokesperson said that the U.S. government's position is that every country has an international legal obligation to accept nationals another country seeks to remove, expel or deport, adding that that position has been consistent over multiple administrations.

The 2008 agreement had previously blocked the deportation of Vietnamese people who had arrived in the U.S. before July 12, 1995, when the U.S. and Vietnam re-established diplomatic relations following the Vietnam War.

In the spring of 2017, the White House had sought to strip anyone with a criminal conviction of the protection granted by the agreement. But the Trump administration backed away from that idea in August.

But now, Thrower said, the government appears to once again be seeking to change how the agreement is interpreted.

While the agreement had initially been set to last for five years, it is now automatically extended every three years, unless one of the two parties decides to opt out.

As such, the 2008 pact was meant to renew next month.

With a deadline just weeks away, it was unclear whether the Trump administration planned to prevent the agreement from being renewed.

According to The Atlantic, Department of Homeland Security officials recently met with representatives of the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

While officials declined to provide details on what was discussed during the meeting, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, told the magazine that the purpose of the meeting was to make changes to the 2008 agreement.

In a statement to Newsweek, DHS spokespersonKatie Waldman did not confirm whether the meeting took place, but said the U.S. has "7,000 convicted criminal aliens from Vietnam with final orders of removal."

"These are non-citizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge," she said, adding: "It's a priority of this administration to remove criminal aliens to their home country."

Democratic Representative Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Florida, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam, condemned the Trump administration's reported plans, saying they were "deeply concerning."

"My family fled Communist Vietnam when I was a baby because they would have rather died in search of light than to have lived in darkness," Murphy, who is the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve in Congress, said in a statement on Twitter. "Thanks to a program under President Carter, we resettled to the U.S., and I became a proud citizen of this great nation.

"As an American, I'm deeply concerned by [Trump's] attempts to renegotiate the 2008 MOU between Vietnam and the U.S., which would potentially deport Vietnamese refugees who arrived in the U.S. before 1995," the representative said.

"I urge [Trump] to be mindful of this proposed policy's impacts on thousands of families. We can keep America safe and continue to uphold our fundamental American values."

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People pray on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on April 29, 2005, at the Vietnam War Memorial in Westminster, California. The Trump administration has reportedly reinterpreted a 2018 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam in an apparent bid to allow the deportations of Vietnamese immigrants who came to the U.S. before 1995. David McNew/Getty

This article has been updated with statements from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Trump Administration Wants to Deport Vietnam War Refugees Using a Decade-Old Agreement | World