Cambodian Americans will hold a rally on Wednesday at Boston Logan International Airport to celebrate the return home of Thy Chea, who was wrongly deported to Cambodia 18 months ago.
Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW), an NGO working to empower the Asian Pacific American community to participate in US society, said in a press release on Tuesday that Chea would return to his home in Lowell, Massachusetts, on Wednesday.
“After 18 months of fighting to return after he was wrongly deported to Cambodia, Thy Chea, a Lowell, Massachusetts resident, is returning home to the US on February 26.
“At the airport, Chea will, for the first time, meet his one-year-old son, who was born after Chea was deported,” the AARW said.
AARW organising director Keven Lam said in a crowd-funding site that Chea was wrongly and unjustly deported to Cambodia in August 2018 for non-deportable offences he committed 20 years ago.
“It took 18 months of fighting against the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] for [Chea] to win his case, and the right to return to the US.
“We are delighted he can return to the US and wish him well as he reunites with his loved ones,” said Bill Herod, spokesperson for Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organisation (KVAO).
He said Chea was not the first person to win his case and return to the US. “Two others have returned to the US as a result of legal action, and one returned after it was determined he was, in fact, a US citizen.”
He said several other cases remained open, and in all of these cases, KVAO assisted them with securing necessary documentation.
“We have not been informed about the next group of arrivals from the US, but we understand Cambodians are now being detained for repatriation shortly,” he said.
US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg did not respond as of the press time.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Tuesday he did not have information on the case, but he praised Chea for continuing to fight for his rights.
“For Cambodians, as Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] has already made clear, human beings must not be forgotten. If the US deports him, we will accept him because he is our fellow compatriot.
“But we admire that he has fought and won the case to reunite with his family. He has upheld his duty to fight injustice,” Kuong said.
In the meantime, the Khmer Anti-deportation advocacy group on Tuesday alerted Cambodian-Americans that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had begun unexpectedly arresting Cambodians in February.
They urged those who had received contact from ICE or been issued notices to contact lawyers as soon as possible.
ICE said last year that removals of Cambodian-Americans to the Kingdom had increased 279 per cent from 2017 to 2018.
It said there were still around 1,900 Cambodian nationals in the US with a final order of removal, claiming 1,400 of them were convicted criminals.