Vietnam Agrees to the Return of Deportees From the U.S.
By JULIA PRESTON
The New York Times
Published: January 23, 2008
American immigration authorities reached an agreement on Tuesday with Vietnam that clears the way for Vietnamese immigrants under deportation orders to be sent back to their country.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed in Hanoi, Vietnam agreed to accept the return of those Vietnamese immigrants ordered deported by the United States, many of whom are convicted criminals, said Kelly A. Nantel, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency. Until now, Vietnam had generally refused to issue travel documents for the deportees.
The agreement immediately affects about 1,500 Vietnamese immigrants who came to the United States after diplomatic relations with Vietnam were restored on July 12, 1995, Ms. Nantel said. The head of the agency, Julie L. Myers, was in Hanoi on Tuesday to sign the memorandum, which takes effect in 60 days and will last for five years.
This agreement allows us to carry out a judges order to remove individuals from our country in a safe and humane manner, Ms. Myers said.
The agreement culminated 10 years of negotiations between the two countries, Ms. Nantel said. In all, about 8,000 Vietnamese immigrants in the United States are in deportation proceedings or have received final orders to be deported, Ms. Nantel said. Of those, she said, about 7,000 have criminal convictions, including some 4,500 Vietnamese convicted of aggravated felonies.
Only about 200 Vietnamese immigrants slated for deportation are in the custody of immigration authorities, Ms. Nantel said. Because of a Supreme Court ruling in 2001, the authorities have released immigrants under deportation orders after six months in detention if their countries would not accept them.
United States officials agreed to pay for the deportations of Vietnamese, officials said, and to provide 15 days notice to the Vietnamese government before carrying out a deportation.
Doua Thor, executive director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, an advocacy group in Washington, called the pact alarming news. She said many Vietnamese immigrants facing deportation had hoped to resolve their legal cases and to be able to stay in the United States.
About one million people born in Vietnam are the fifth-largest national immigrant group in the United States, according to 2007 census figures. About 69 percent of them are naturalized citizens.