Tien Pham, 38, who fled violence in Vietnam as a child, was sent back to an unfamiliar country due to teenage conviction: ‘America is my home’
This 3 May 2021 Guardian article jumped off my screen. This poor guy goes from one frying pan into another. It reminded me the classic 2010 article by Vietnamese American writer and poet, Linh Dinh, House Slave Syndrome, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s statement in a March 2021 interview that “We Are Here Because You Are There” in reference to how U.S. foreign policy creates refugees, a trend I noticed long before uttered those words.
Pham was relieved when his family came to California in 1996 as refugees, resettling in a low-income housing project in San Jose. But he struggled with English and fell behind in class, despite excelling in school in Vietnam: “I was embarrassed and humiliated,” he recalled.
Facing bullying and violence in his school and neighborhood, he got involved in local street gangs, which offered him protection – a common story of south-east Asian refugees who grew up in poverty in California.
Be honest – how many of you would have have survived this setting? Coming from a privileged background, I can’t say for sure that I would have.
The roots of Mr. Tien’s tragic story are to be found in history and the decisions his parents made. What’s undeniable is that the US government shares part of the responsibility for his sad fate, including, most obviously, the deportation. He served his time. Why not give him a chance to become a productive member of society? Can you imagine being released from prison only to be ushered into an ICE van to await your deportation to a country you left over two decades ago as a teenager? It’s a textbook case of cruel and unusual punishment that the Biden/Harris administration has yet to put an end to. For its part, Viet Nam should no longer agree to receive this deportees.
Note: Tien Pham was a permanent resident not a US citizen. It is not legally possible to deport that latter.
Shalom (שלום), MAA