Minnesota’s congressional delegation should join forces with U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat representing the east metro, to halt Trump administration efforts to deport 4,716 former refugees from Southeast Asia. Members of the Hmong community fled their native land after the Vietnam War’s end, when the new regime retaliated against those who aided American forces during the conflict. The deportation scheme ignores this history and the risks these longtime U.S. residents may still face if repatriated.
McCollum was first to sound the alarm earlier this month, sending a Feb. 3 letter demanding answers from the U.S. secretary of state. She’s leading again on taking the next step. “It is my intention to introduce legislation next week to prevent President Trump from deporting any former Hmong or Lao refugees back to Laos,” McCollum said in a statement on Wednesday.
McCollum’s meritorious move comes after she received the State Department’s response. The missive made it “crystal clear” that the administration’s aim is to deport these former refugees, the congresswoman’s statement said. “The Lao government’s refusal to enter into an agreement with the Trump administration is the only obstacle preventing massive deportations from our Hmong and Lao communities.”
The 4,716 U.S. residents have standing deportation orders against them. About 4,000 have criminal convictions, according to federal officials. While residents of other countries face deportation after committing offenses, compassion and common sense are critical in this case.
Many of those involved came to the U.S. as children after living in refugee camps. They often lived in impoverished neighborhoods and committed crimes as a young people adjusting to a new culture. Hmong community leaders in Minnesota said many have served their time and gone onto to lead productive lives. Often, they are family breadwinners.
Gov. Tim Walz sent a welcome and strongly worded letter to the secretary of state on Feb. 18. “Our Hmong and Lao neighbors are small business owners, combat veterans who fought alongside American soldiers, and passionate people who have shaped Minnesota’s culture into what it is today,” he said.
All of Minnesota’s congressional delegation should be voicing similar opposition. Ripping families apart serves no good purpose and disrespects a community that fought on our side when America needed them.