Sene Sem was born in a refugee camp and was resettled into the United States when he was a child. His mother is a survivor of war and genocide. She has since passed. He has no living relatives in Cambodia and the only family he has is in Rhode Island. In September Sem was picked up by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and faces deportation to Cambodia, a country he left as a child when his parents fled the Khmer Rouge. He does not speak Khmer, and has no surviving family there.
Sem’s spouse, Sarah Hoeuy, writes, “I have known my husband for more than 15 years. He is a loving father to his 10 year old daughter, Asia, and a devoted husband to me.”
Hoeuy acknowledges Sem’s troubled legal past. “All of us have made mistakes that we wish we could undo,” writes Hoeuy. “Sene has held himself fully accountable for his choices and has served the time given to him by the justice system. Sene shouldn’t be paying it for the rest of his life, he has already atoned for his mistakes and lives a full and healthy life. He is a loving, hardworking man and is now proudly raising a beautiful daughter.”
Sem is a homeowner and is the main breadwinner for his daughter, wife, and elderly mother-in-law.
A large collection of social and immigration justice groups1 have signed onto a letter calling for Sem’s release. They note the impact his absence is having on his family, including his 10 year old daughter, who is in 5th grade and is a United States citizen. “Asia just entered the 5th grade this year in the Cranston School District,” says the letter. “Only 13 days after beginning 5th Grade, her father was taken by immigration agents right in front of her. She was waiting for him, as she does every day, to greet her father with hugs. Mr Sem’s detention is having a visible, and unnecessary, negative impact over his daughter’s life.”
- The Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance, ReleaseMN8, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, Center for Southeast Asians, COYOTE RI, Sista Fire RI, The Collective, College Visions, Providence Student Union, Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, Central American United Student Association at Brown, The FANG Collective, Protect Families First, Side with Love First Unitarian Church of Providence, March for Racial Justice RI, George Wiley Center, Zora Grace