Rating: The claim is TRUE. The Biden administration did deport 33 Vietnamese immigrants. It is following the lead of the Trump administration, who had deported almost 300 Vietnamese immigrants. Many of the people deported committed small crimes and misdemeanors and had already served prison sentences for their crimes.
On March 15, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 33 Vietnamese immigrants from the U.S. Many of these immigrants were refugees who came to the U.S. as children, such as Tien Pham or Hieu Huynh. They had served time in prison for their crimes and had been released. But instead of being released to their families, these Vietnamese immigrants were released to ICE, which immediately put them at risk of deportation.
“Under the Biden administration’s deportation policy, they’re supposed to be focusing resources on deporting people who pose a current danger to the public,” said Anoop Prasad, a staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus said to the Los Angeles Times. “The majority of people on the flight have convictions that are very old, like Tien’s case, which is 20 years old. In the state of California, the governor, parole board, state prison system and prison psychologists had all found that Tien posed no danger to the public and was safe to return. So there’s definitely this conflict there.”
In the U.S., an immigrant can be deported for most crimes—not just violent crimes such as murder, but also misdemeanors such as robbery or document falsification—even if they have already served jail time for those offenses.
In 2008, the U.S. and Vietnam entered into an agreement that exempted any Vietnamese refugee who arrived in the US before July 12, 1995 from being deported. Despite the agreement, deportations of Vietnamese people began to rise under the Trump administration. According to ICE: In 2018, 122 Vietnamese people were deported, in 2019 it was 80, and in 2020 it was 93.
A number of people deported by the Trump administration arrived before 1995, because the Trump administration reinterpreted the 2008 agreement with Vietnam, saying that any immigrant who committed a crime was subject to deportation, even if they arrived before 1995. In this area, the Biden administration is following the same rules as the Trump administration.
When Biden entered the presidency, he issued a 100-day moratorium on deportations, which would have paused deportations for 100 days. The moratorium was blocked by Texas Judge Drew Tipton, which prevented it from being implemented. The state of Texas then filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration, saying the deportation freeze would cause “irreparable harm” to the state. The Biden administration then said it would not pursue another moratorium.
A number of Vietnamese American activists are calling on Biden and other lawmakers to strengthen protections for Vietnamese refugees facing deportation. VietRise, an advocacy group based in Orange County, has been pushing legislators in California to pass the VISION Act (AB 937), which would prevent any immigrant who committed a crime and completed their jail time, from being released to ICE for deportation. The bill has been introduced but has not yet been voted on by the California state legislature.