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Resources on Deportation of Vietnamese Immigrants Who Entered the U.S. Before 1995

June 30, 2022 Guides & Reports

Background

Vietnamese immigrants who entered the United States before 1995–overwhelmingly refugees who fled violence and persecution after the end of the Vietnam War–have historically not been subject to deportation. The United States and Vietnam signed an agreement in 2008 to not deport these immigrants. But in 2017, under the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began detaining them for long periods of time and pressuring Vietnam to issue travel documents for their deportation. In November 2020, the United States and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that created a process for deporting immigrants who entered the U.S. before 1995, often called “pre-1995 immigrants.”

Community members fought to hold the U.S. government accountable and stop ICE from tearing families apart. Vietnamese immigrants in detention who came to the U.S. before 1995, represented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliates and the law firm Reed Smith LLP, filed a lawsuit against ICE, Trinh v. Homan. As a result of the lawsuit, ICE started detaining pre-1995 immigrants for shorter periods of time and providing information to the plaintiffs and the public about ICE’s detention and deportation practices.

  • Under the 2020 MOU, ICE now has a process to request that Vietnam issue travel documents for pre-1995 immigrants to be deported.
  • Vietnam does not always issue a travel document when ICE requests one.
  • ICE appears to be prioritizing pre-1995 immigrants who are currently in ICE custody for travel document applications. At this time, there is no widespread practice of re-detaining pre-1995 immigrants with deportation orders who have already been released.
  • ICE’s policy is that pre-1995 immigrants are generally unlikely to be deported and should be released within 90 days of receiving a deportation order. This page will be updated if and when we learn of a change to this policy.
  • If you are a pre-1995 immigrant with a deportation order who has been released from ICE detention, you are most likely not in imminent danger of re-detention, but you may wish to seek individualized legal advice.

This page will be updated as ICE issues the quarterly reports required by the Trinh lawsuit (see below).

Quarterly reports

As part of the resolution of the Trinh lawsuit, ICE agreed to provide quarterly reports regarding detention and deportation of pre-1995 immigrants for a two-year period, from late 2021 to late 2023. First, each report takes a “snapshot” of ICE detention on a particular day in the quarter, and lists all of the pre-1995 immigrants who had been in detention for more than 90 days on that particular day. Second, each report lists all of the pre-1995 immigrants for whom Vietnam issued travel documents during the quarter.

The quarterly reports show that from September 2021 to June 2022, three immigrants who came to the U.S before 1995 were given travel documents and deported. Of these three individuals, one person received a deportation order in 2020 and two people received deportation orders in 2021.

We hope these reports provide useful information and help advocates and community members hold the government accountable.

Timeline

2008: United States and Vietnam sign an agreement, creating a process for deportation to Vietnam but protects pre-1995 immigrants from deportation. The agreement states: “Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam under this Agreement if they arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995.” Vietnam consistently refuses to issue travel documents for pre-1995 immigrants to be deported.

2017: Under the Trump administration, the United States begins pressuring Vietnam to accept pre-1995 immigrants. ICE begins detaining pre-1995 immigrants with deportation orders for months and sometimes over a year.

February 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliates and Reed Smith LLP file Trinh v. Homan, a class action lawsuit against ICE seeking release from detention or bond hearings for pre-1995 immigrants with deportation orders.

September 2018: The District Court rejects ICE’s motion to dismiss the Trinh lawsuit. ICE then admits that it is generally unable to deport pre-1995 immigrants and agrees to release pre-1995 immigrants within 90 days of their deportation orders.

2020: Vietnam begins issuing a small number of travel documents for pre-1995 immigrants.

June 2020: The District Court denies the Trinh plaintiffs’ request to grant relief to all pre-1995 immigrants with deportation orders, citing evidence that Vietnam is issuing travel documents for a small percentage of pre-1995 immigrants. The District Court rules that pre-1995 immigrants must seek release from detention by filing individual lawsuits.

November 2020: The United States and Vietnam sign a Memorandum of Understanding that creates a process for deporting pre-1995 immigrants. Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus later obtains a copy of the MOU through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. Read our advisory on the MOU and its impact on pre-1995 immigrants.

October 2021: ICE agrees to resolve the remainder of the Trinh lawsuit by:

  • Providing bond hearings after 180 days of detention for pre-1995 immigrants detained in the Ninth Circuit (western U.S. including California, Washington, Arizona) and Third Circuit (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware).
  • Providing quarterly reports for two years regarding pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants who have been detained for more than 90 days or who have been issued travel documents.
  • Providing notice promptly if, in the next five years, ICE changes its position that pre-1995 immigrants are generally unlikely to be deported and generally should be released within 90 days of their deportation orders.