St. Paul, Minn. (Jan. 17, 2017) — Approximately 75 people gathered at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Office at Fort Snelling Tuesday to help families of the MN 8 deliver “Not Home for the Holiday” cards to ICE officials.
Eight Cambodian refugee men from Minnesota have been targeted for deportation because of old criminal convictions. All of these individuals had completed their sentences for past convictions and were leading otherwise ordinary lives when they were detained by ICE in August. They have been in ICE detention since last August.
This afternoon, families and supporters held signs that read “Keep Families Together” and “Don’t Deport my Dad”. People gathered to demand that ICE release these individuals immediately as recent developments indicate that these men would not be deported. The MN 8 families congregated in front of the federal building and requested that ICE officials come out to accept their holiday cards. Mary Hogan, a community relations officer, came out to address the families. She listened to one family read one of the holiday cards which described the hardships families experience after losing their loved ones. Hogan declined to accept any of the holiday cards that families made.
Many Cambodians came to the U.S. in the 1980s after fleeing war and genocide in Cambodia. Many Cambodians, including all of the MN8, are legal immigrants who received refugee asylum.
One of the detainees, Sameth Nhean, recently spent his 35th birthday in detention. Nhean was born in a Thai refugee camp and has never been to Cambodia. His wife, Sokha Kul, attended the rally with their 3 children.
“I don’t understand why they can’t just let him go. His crime was in 2002 and he served three months for it,”Kul said. “He’s now been in ICE longer than what he served for the crime that they’re trying to deport him for in the first place. Cambodia said they don’t want to take them. Why keep him in jail?”
The families of the MN 8 fear that their loved ones face indefinite detention and are increasing anxious about the new administration that will take office on Jan. 20.
Danielle Robinson Briand is an attorney with the Center for Immigrant Justice in Minneapolis and represents two of the MN 8.
“ICE has so far failed to provide any evidence that the country of Cambodia intends to repatriate the MN 8 in the foreseeable future,” Briand said. “Their continued detention, now in excess of five months, is not only unconstitutional, but a complete waste of taxpayer money.”
Cambodian government officials have stated that they do not want to accept deportees if these individuals do not want to return to Cambodia. The Cambodian government is currently seeking to renegotiate a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on repatriation policies between the US and Cambodian governments.