Stop ‘breaking families apart’ say supporters of ICE detainees

By Sue Misao
Northwest Asian Weekly

Activist Many Uch addresses those who came out to support detainees. (Photo by Diakonda Gurning)

A vigil was held at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center on June 21 to support about 40 Cambodian individuals being held there as they await deportation.

According to the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), several dozen men are currently being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers in Stockton, Calif., Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, and elsewhere. They all came to the United States as children of refugee families after escaping the genocide in Cambodia, and have families in this country who depend on them.

One detainee in Stockton, Touch Hak, has asked ICE to delay his deportation long enough for him to donate a kidney to his brother in order to save his life, according to SEARAC. Another detainee is Vanna Thay, whose fiancée in Everett has asked for him to be released before he gets deported, so he can spend time at home and work to earn money to support himself, as he establishes his new life in Cambodia.

Signs at the vigil depicted some of the families of detainees. (Photo by Stacy D. Kitahata)

Supporters who gathered outside the Tacoma center held signs and called for an end to deportations they say are breaking families apart.

“People from every immigrant and refugee community should come out and support us,” stated Many Uch, a Cambodian activist and one of the organizers of the events. “We all have family and community members struggling with detention and deportation. It is only when we join together that we can make our voices be heard.”

Two Seattle area Cambodians, Rithy Yin and Ram Son, living day-to-day with a final order of deportation, spoke to the Northwest Asian Weekly and were featured in a three-part series in June, “Nonpermanent Residents – Local men facing deportation for crimes in their youth,” by reporter Stacy Nguyen.

Same-day vigils were held in Stockton and Washington D.C. (end)

SEARAC is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans by “empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society.” Find out more at

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