A decade-old agreement protecting certain Vietnamese immigrants from deportation could soon change, according to a Wednesday report by The Atlantic. If the Trump administration moves forward on this, President Donald Trump could oversee the deportation of Vietnamese refugees who arrived in the U.S. before 1995, The Atlantic reported, even if they have lived in the country for decades.
After the Vietnam War, the United States did not reestablish formal diplomatic relations with Vietnam until 1995. The Trump administration is reportedly exploring options to deport certain Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the United States before that point. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Hanoi, who asked the magazine not to be identified because of embassy procedures, told The Atlantic that "the United States and Vietnam signed a bilateral agreement on removals in 2008 that establishes procedures for deporting Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States after July 12, 1995, and are subject to final orders of removal."
However, they explained, "While the procedures associated with this specific agreement do not apply to Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, it does not explicitly preclude the removal of pre-1995 cases."
The Trump administration has reportedly reinterpreted the 2008 agreement, which was signed under President George W. Bush, to argue that Vietnamese immigrants who arrive before 1995 do not have special deportation protections. In other words, they can be prosecuted in the same way as any other immigrant, according to The Atlantic.
The administration had initially unveiled this interpretation of the agreement in 2017, but backed down from it earlier this year, The New York Times reported. According to The Atlantic report, however, the administration has since changed its mind again.
Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told the magazine that they "have 5,000 convicted criminal aliens from Vietnam with final orders of removal" and that "these are non-citizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted, and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge. It’s a priority of this administration to remove criminal aliens to their home country.”
Although it's not clear when, exactly, the reinterpretation took place, DHS has confirmed that they did meet with representatives of the Vietnamese embassy in Washington, The Atlantic reported.
The reinterpretation would not apply to citizens or all legal immigrants, according to Vox. The several thousand people with deportation orders are most likely legal immigrants who have committed serious crimes, or else those who do not currently have legal authorization to be in the United States, Vox reported. If a Vietnamese immigrant has been in the United States since 1995 and still doesn't have legal status, the outlet explains, it's likely because he or she committed a crime that made them ineligible for it.
The reported reinterpretation of the agreement, and potentially allowing for these deportations, is strongly in sync with the Trump administration's hardline immigration policy, as well as its long-held America-first policy. The Atlantic report also comes as the president is embroiled in a battle with the legislative branch over the funding of a new and renovated U.S.-Mexico border wall. The president has repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if Congress is not able to pass a funding bill that includes money allocated to build the wall.