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Viernes, 03 Enero 2020 04:28

Deported to Cambodia!

Written by Marie Wren
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Marie Wren– North Bay, CA Chapter

Recently, I was privileged to take a Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Mission Immersion trip to Taiwan and Cambodia. The North Bay Affiliate Chapter has been involved in immigration issues and has been helping refugee families, so an interaction with an organization in Cambodia named Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organization (KVAO) assisting deportees from the US was of particular interest. Maryknoll Sister Len Montiel was our tour leader for Cambodia, and she had been on the Board of Directors of KVAO.

Generally, the deportees came to the US as refugees, were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, often in their younger years, had served their time in prison, and were living productive lives with families. They are usually permanent residents, and some may have failed to complete paperwork to become citizens (which they regret) and then are served with deportation orders. The numbers have grown in recent years. The agency has helped 743 deportees since its founding in 2002, and 65-70% of them are now working. In 2018, 110 Cambodians were deported, and that number was expected to rise to 200 in 2019.

We met a young Cambodian man who had come to the US as a child. Recently, as an adult, the US deported him to Cambodia. His knowledge of the written and spoken Cambodian language and culture was very limited. His deportation left a partner and a child in the United States. The young man was very grateful for the services of KVAO: they greeted him when he arrived and helped him find a place to stay and obtain job training. He can never return legally to the US, so to maintain contact, his family will have to visit him in Cambodia.

KVAO founder talks to group.

KVAO is a non-governmental humanitarian organization that defines its vision as “a Cambodia where all Cambodian deportees are successfully integrated and are stable, productive, and independent members of society.” It is a bewildering experience for deportees to be sent back to a homeland they have never really known, some having fled as infants with their families to escape the ravages of the Khmer Rouge. From 1975 to 1994, 150,000 Cambodian refugees came to the United States. KVAO helps the deportees with orientation to the culture, getting legal documents, and access to job training. Many end up teaching English.

Here in the US, we experience the effects of our harsh immigration policies on our Hispanic neighbors, so it was particularly disturbing to also find those effects extending all the way to Cambodia. We were glad to know that KVAO alleviates some of the trauma associated with deportation.

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