SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — President Trump’s deportation efforts have a new group of immigrants in the Bay Area worried: San Jose residents who came from Vietnam.
The Trump administration says it’s focusing new deportation action on a narrow group of Vietnamese immigrants, specifically non-citizens who entered the United States before 1995, when the U.S. and Vietnam normalized relations, and those who have been convicted of crimes.
The South Bay city has one of the largest Vietnamese-American populations anywhere in the United States. The recent changes to immigration policy by the Trump administration are causing fear and uncertainty of the community.
“Everyone in the Vietnamese community knows of someone who might be affected,” said Madison Nguyen, a former San Jose City Councilmember and Vice Mayor.
She told KPIX 5 the deportation order is causing a ripple effect in cities with large Vietnamese-American populations like San Jose.
“I think what the president is doing is unjust. It’s shameful. It’s cruel,” said Nguyen.
Nguyen fled the communist takeover of Vietnam on a boat with her family when she was just four years old. She said people who could be deported would be considered enemies by the current Vietnamese Communist government.
“If they go back there, they are not really sure what’s going to happen to them. Particularly those who went to re-education camps after the war. And so for them to go back now is a very dangerous situation,” Nguyen said.
Several past administrations have allowed those immigrants to stay in the U.S. under the decade-old Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Vietnam.
The decision by Trump’s Department of Homeland Security reverses that policy.
“We have 5,000 convicted criminal aliens from Vietnam with final orders of removal. These are non-citizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted, and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge,” said DHS spokesperson Katie Waldman. “It’s a priority of this administration to remove criminal aliens to their home country.”
But immigrant supporters say it’s unclear exactly who the DHS is targeting.
“There’s a big difference between being convicted of a violent, predatory felony and someone who had a DUI 35 years ago. We need to understand who is being targeted before we can rush to conclusions,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
Liccardo said San Jose may join other cities in denouncing the deportation effort that he agrees could affect many people who have called San Jose home for decades.