Q: How can I take action to keep Lundy in the United States?
Q: Lundy got a pardon from the Governor of Virginia. Why is she still being deported?
A: Lundy’s Governor’s pardon does not cancel her deportation order because it is a “simple” pardon, or an acknowledgement of “forgiveness” from the Governor. In Virginia, only individuals who are proven to be innocent of all original charges can receive the “full and unconditional” pardon necessary to cancel the grounds of deportation. This varies from state to state.
Q: Can’t Lundy just get married to a U.S. citizen?
A: Lundy is already married to a U.S. citizen, and her son is also a citizen. Unfortunately, Lundy is not considered eligible for a green card through her husband because of her old offense. In fact, the laws make it impossible for anyone with an old controlled substance offense to obtain lawful status.
Q: Why didn’t Lundy just become a citizen when she was young?
A: People are not eligible to apply for citizenship until they turn 18. If Lundy’s parents had become citizens before she turned 18, she would have automatically also gained citizenship. But many refugee families lacked the knowledge and resources to naturalize. Many legal permanent residents are unaware that they do not have the same legal protections as citizens. Fees for citizenship (currently $680 per person) can be very difficult for immigrant and refugee families struggling to create a better life for their children. Lundy was looking forward to applying for citizenship, but she was saving money to pay for college when she was arrested.
Q: Wait, Lawful Permanent Residents and refugees can get deported?
A: Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen can be deported. This includes permanent residents, refugees, student visa and business visa holders, as well as people without documents. Even people who were adopted by American parents as young children can be deported if their parents didn’t file the correct paperwork. Marriage to a U.S. citizen also does not protect someone from being deported, nor do factors such as military service, level of education, or U.S. citizen children.
In 1996, Congress took already-strict laws and made them much worse. Not only that, but they made them retroactive. People like Many Uch became deportable overnight for crimes they committed before the laws were passed. Today, these outdated laws impose a one-size-fits-all punishment on all immigrants, including refugees and other permanent residents, that is almost impossible to fight.
Q: Can the U.S. deport Lundy to Cambodia even though she wasn’t born there, and has never even been there?
A: Yes. Though Lundy was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, she did not receive Thai status of any kind, making Cambodia (the country of her parents’ birth) her country of origin. Many Cambodian Americans with deportation orders in the last decade were born in Thailand.
Q: If Lundy was ordered deported over a decade ago, why is she still in the U.S.?
A: Because of the history of the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the U.S. has unique agreements with the three countries about which people or how many people can get deported. Cambodia signed an agreement in 2002 allowing only a limited number of deportees to be sent to Cambodia each year. Vietnam currently only accepts deportees who arrived in the U.S. after the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1995, exempting most refugees. Laos currently does not accept deportees. These agreements are subject to change at any time. Around 12,000 Southeast Asian Americans, the majority of them refugees, live in limbo in the U.S. with final orders.
Q: How can the U.S. punish Lundy twice for the same crime?
A: Though punishing someone twice for the same crime (double jeopardy) is not allowed in the criminal justice system, the U.S. considers deportation an “administrative action” and not criminal punishment. So Lundy could be issued a “life sentence” of deportation for a mistake she already paid her time for long ago.
Q: What happens to people who have been deported?
A: Many people who are deported have few, if any, ties to the country to which they are deported and struggle to begin a new life. A study by the Leitner Center at Fordham Law School found that Cambodian deportees often suffer extreme emotional distress. The Returnee Integration Support Center in Phnom Penh helps people who were deported from the U.S. with cultural orientation, employment and housing support, and a social support network, but the center itself struggles to stay open to provide these much needed services. Usually, people who are deported have no legal way to return to the U.S., even to visit. Recently, U.S. deportees to Cambodia have begun pushing back against the system that exiled them from their only home – find out more about 1Love Cambodia.