While President Donald Trump throws Oval Office temper tantrums over whether or not Congress will fund the border wall he swore Mexico would pay for, his administration has been working on a separate but no less disgusting anti-immigrant policy: Making it easier to deport Vietnam War refugees.
The Atlantic reported on Wednesday that the Trump administration has quietly resurrected plans to change a two two-decade old policy which granted refugee status to people who came to the U.S. from Vietnam before the two countries established formal ties in 1995.
“The United States and Vietnam signed a bilateral agreement on removals in 2008 that establishes procedures for deporting Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States after July 12, 1995, and are subject to final orders of removal,” a spokesperson for the American embassy in Hanoi told the magazine. “While the procedures associated with this specific agreement do not apply to Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, it does not explicitly preclude the removal of pre-1995 cases.”
This effort to re-draw the boundary of who is and isn’t eligible for deportation is actually just the latest in a long back and forth over the United State’s handling of Vietnamese refugees, many of whom fled to the U.S. following the bloody civil war which was unnecessarily prolonged and made even bloodier by U.S. involvement. In 2017, the Trump White House moved to change their interpretation of the 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam, arguing that long term, green-card holding residents who’d arrived before 1995 and had been protected under the policy were suddenly subject to deportation if they’d broken the law during their time here.
In short, removing their refugee status would hold them to the same immigration and residency laws as other non-citizens.
All told, some 8,000 people found themselves blindsided by this new attack in the administration’s larger war on immigration and immigrants themselves. U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius eventually resigned from the State department, in part due to his opposition to the Trump administration’s plan.
Earlier this year, the White House backed away from the move, telling a California court that “the removal of pre-1995 Vietnamese is not reasonably foreseeable.” However, now it seems as if the White House is taking advantage of the 2008 agreement’s schedule to target a population that has spent a generation in the U.S.
According to the Atlantic, the agreement is set to automatically renew every three years, with one of those renewals happening next month—unless either the U.S. or Vietnam pulls out. Speaking with the magazine, a State Department spokesperson confirmed that representatives from both governments had met recently at the Vietnamese embassy in DC, but declined to share specifics on what was discussed.
And so the Trump administration continues to focuses on what matters: Pulling protections from survivors of one of the worst things the United States has ever done to another country.