Vietnam War refugees deported under Trump struggle to settle

Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen was nine when he boarded a boat alone to escape the communist regime in Vietnam for the United States. Some 40 years later, he returned in shackles, deported from the only country he really knows to one he can scarcely remember.
With conspiracy and fraud convictions under his belt, he was expelled in line with a Trump administration push to remove immigrants with criminal records for convictions ranging from traffic offences to drug-related crimes and murder.
Nguyen left his four grown kids and second wife Annie behind in Boston, and now spends his days aimlessly cruising the web because he cannot find work, or battling bureaucracy to obtain identity papers.
“I still don’t believe it,” Nguyen said in Ho Chi Minh City this week, using only his last name for safety.
“I really want to go back there because I lived there for more of my life there than here,” said Nguyen, who’s not yet used to the city’s sweltering heat.
The former construction worker was sent to immigration detention with orders of removal after his prison release last year, joining some 8,600 Vietnamese nationals tagged for deportation, most with criminal records.
In the 2017 fiscal year, 71 Vietnamese nationals were deported from the US — double the 2016 figure — and 76 have been sent so far since October 2017 according to data from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which does not track refugees’ date of arrival to the country when compiling removal data.
The move comes as immigration officials ramp up raids and removals of aliens from Mexico, Cambodia, Myanmar and elsewhere who Trump has vowed to crack down on.
Advocates argue that the expulsion of Vietnamese nationals violates a 2008 deal that says Vietnam refugees who arrived in the US before the normalisation of ties between the former war foes in 1995 should not be deported.
Four refugees have filed a class action lawsuit over months-long pre-deportation detentions. But ICE says their birth nations are obligated to take them back and that it does not target immigrants “indiscriminately”.
“ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” spokesman Brendan Raedy said.
Nguyen and nearly 30 others landed in Ho Chi Minh City in December after a 24-hour flight during which his hands and feet were shackled, and he has spent the last few months uneasily settling into a city he still calls by its former name Saigon. — AFP