“Today is the last day we’ll see Chan. Another person lost to the deportation machine.”
Chan Chhoeur says he wasn’t born in Cambodia. Though Chhoeur is of Cambodian descent, he’s a citizen of Thailand, brought to the United States as an infant. He’s 41 years old. Today Chhoeur, like dozens of Southeast Asians throughout the United States, checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Chhoeur was not alone. He was accompanied by friends, supporters and allies from PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement). Over 20 people stood with signs, chanting as Chhoeur entered the building. Like Chhoeur, other members of the Cambodian community entered similar ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) buildings around the country. Like Chhoeur, many of these people will leave in the custody of ICE, to be detained and deported.
Chhoeur is a chemical engineer, with a seven year old daughter and alimony payments. Chan thinks he came to the attention of ICE because of an OUI (Operating Under the Influence) from last year and a conspiracy to sell drugs conviction from 1997. He says he was a kid, in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
Chhoeur blames his deportation on Donald Trump. Undocumented immigrants, he says, need to be safe. “They can pick you up any time.”
His family is saddened by his departure. His seven year old daughter doesn’t understand the situation. He hopes to stay in contact with her via Facetime. When he leaves, the alimony and child support he pays will leave with him.
Chhoeur sees his best bet as getting a passport when he is returned to Thailand, then getting a good job in France. But he has no idea what his future will bring him.
“This morning, all over the country, people are being asked to check in early, and being put into deportation proceedings,” said Steven Dy, from PrYSM, who organized the rally in support of Chhoeur. “We at PrYSM denounce these deportations, these are violations of our human rights. We committed to fighting against the deportation machine, and making sure that our families get to stay together, and stay home.
“Today is the last day we’ll see Chan,” continued Dy. “Another person lost to the deportation machine.”
After Chhoeur checked into the ICE facility, Dy spoke about PrYSM’s pardon campaign. Many people, like Chhoeur, have minor or old criminal convictions on their record. These convictions make them targets for ICE. PrYSM, says Dy, sees pardons from Governor Gina Raimondo as one of the “fastest, most efficient” ways to cut down on deportations.
PrSYM is asking Raimondo to “pardon those with deportation orders, and remove offenses that deem them deportable, therefore they can stay with their families.” To that end, PrYSM is asking people to call their elected officials in support of this effort. They provided a sample script, with phone numbers.
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