Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Deported, disoriented, forgotten

I can remember when I was first living in Cambodia, I encountered my first "returnee" in a internet cafe. I could hear someone speaking Cambodian like I would (see this Khmenglish video for a laugh), but acting as if he should be understood better.

As I chatted with him, I was interested to hear about his own culture shock as he was ethnically Cambodia, but culturally American. I like to call these Cambodian-Americans "Khmericans". He grew up Cambodian in the US, but didn't fit in Cambodia. He could barely speak Khmer, and had a very hard time relating to relatives that never left the mother land.

One step further, can you imagine if you were deported for criminal behavior having never lived in your "home country," but suddenly waking up to find that you're on an 18-hour flight because the country you grew up in suddenly decides that it's politically correct to crack down on "illegals."

According to the Phnom Penh Post article of this same title:
...advocates in the US familiar with the issue of Cambodian deportations are quick to point to a shift in enforcement strategy on the part of the Obama administration as the cause. “I think it has to do with the [2012 presidential] campaign,” says Jacqueline Dan, staff attorney with the Asian Pacific American Legal Centre in Los Angeles.

Dan says that amidst escalating criticism from immigrant rights groups in the US regarding heightened deportations, the Obama Administration has expressly shifted its priorities to removing individuals with criminal records, as revealed in an ICE memo leaked last June. This move aimed to appease critics while at the same time positioning the administration to look tough on immigration enforcement, she explains.
This may not be popular to believe, but I doubt it's far from the truth.

The reality is, that organizations like RISC in Phnom Penh, need more support. They are doing as much as they can to respond to the increasing influx and return of Khmericans to Cambodia, but their budget is getting smaller while at the same time the number of returnees is getting larger.

No matter what your opinion is about the past crimes of these Khmericans resulting in their deportation, help is needed to reach out when they want to change their lives for the better.

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