ST. PAUL, Minn. (Feb. 18, 2020) — The State Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans on Monday released a statement regarding the potential deportation of certain Lao and Hmong Americans.
The Council is a non-partisan executive branch agency charged with advising state government on matters pertaining to Minnesota’s Asian Pacific community (pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 15.0145). Our role, as a state agency, is to bridge the gap that often exists between Minnesotans, particularly those in state government and those in the communities that we represent. We are often called on by both the executive and legislative branches of state government, members of both political parties, and our communities, to provide advice on issues and the positive and negative impacts of legislative proposals.
As a state agency, we generally do not work on federal government affairs, except when issues such as immigration dominate our national, state, and local politics, it then becomes a necessary concern for our Council. Therefore, we have been closely following this issue of deportation of legal permanent residents under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996.
In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced the United States would begin imposing visa restrictions on Laos as a means to pressure this Southeast Asian nation into a deportation agreement with the United States. IIRIRA allows for the deportation of legal permanent residents in the United States who have committed a crime at some point in their lives, even though many of them have completed their sentence and gone on to raise families and lead productive lives. Individuals who made mistakes, accepted the consequences, and have gone on to be valuable, contributing members of our community are the model of success for our justice system. Yet, under IIRIRA, these individuals are vulnerable to deportation, an act whereby they would be stripped of their homes, communities, and lives as Americans; this is a disproportionate level of punishment.
The individuals facing deportation under this policy are legal permanent residents of the United States. They are Americans who sought refuge here with their families as a result of American geopolitics in Southeast Asia; they are members of our refugee groups from Laos – the Lao and Hmong, just to name two of the largest. These very groups fought on behalf of the United States during the Secret War. After Laos fell to Communism in 1975, these allies of the United States had no choice but to flee in order to escape persecution. Estimated at 92,000 strong, today these groups make up over one-quarter of Minnesota’s Asian Pacific community. They reside in all corners of our state, including Tracy, Warroad, Worthington, Rochester, and the Twin Cities. They should continue to be allowed the opportunity to thrive here with supported pathways, so that they remain with their families.
Our Council appreciates that members of the broader community are showing solidarity with the Lao and Hmong Minnesotans potentially impacted by this agreement. We too appreciate that elected officials have publicly and unequivocally voiced their support for our Lao and Hmong American communities. Having followed this issue of deportation in our Cambodian and Vietnamese American communities, we know that an agreement between the United States and Laos to deport legal permanent residents will also negatively impact the immediate and extended families, and communities of those targeted for deportation.
All too often, many of our communities feel that they are living on the margins, even in the shadows. To see other Americans willing to stand publicly with us, and for us, is a reminder that we all have more in common than we do not. But this does not change the fact that the potential for an agreement is real, and that this potential is a threat to refugees and allies displaced by an American war, who are leading productive lives in our communities. Nor does it change the fact that if the streamlined deportation of another group of Americans can be enforced, the next round, whomever it targets will be easier to carry out.
THE COUNCIL ON ASIAN PACIFIC MINNESOTANS OPPOSES THE DEPORTATION OF LEGAL, PERMANENT RESIDENTS FOR ACTIONS IN THEIR PAST THAT DO NOT DEFINE THEM. DEPORTATION AS IT IS BEING THREATENED UNDER IIRIRA IS A RETROACTIVE, DISPROPORTIONATE FORM OF DOUBLE JEOPARDY. IIRIRA IS AN ILL-FORMED, PRECEDENT SETTING POLICY THAT BREAKS THE PROMISES MADE TO OUR REFUGEES AND ALLIES.