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Removing Refugees: U.S. Deportation Policy and the Cambodian-American Community

Washington, DC (June 29, 2010) – The Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic of the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School, the Returnee Integration Support Center (RISC) and Deported Diaspora announce the release of a new report, Removing Refugees: U.S. Deportation Policy and the Cambodian-American Community.  The report highlights the human rights impact of our current immigration policies through the lens of the Cambodian-American community and is based upon interviews conducted in Cambodia with individuals who have been deported. The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), a Washington, DC based advocacy organization, has long called for the restoration of fairness to immigration policies and values the important contribution of this report to the comprehensive immigration reform discussion. Access the report here.

Two 1996 Immigration laws, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) expanded the categories for mandatory deportation and eliminated judicial discretion from the removal process for all “aggravated felons.”  The Cambodian American community, largely refugees who arrived in the U.S. in the early 1980s, has been hit especially hard by these laws following the signing of an expansive repatriation agreement between the countries in 2002. 

Chi Mgbako, director of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic, states “The laws are currently inhumane, unjust, and in many instances at odds with international human rights norms. Immigration reform provides an opportunity to address these overly punitive measures.”

“These important voices reveal grave acts of human rights violations in our country’s broken immigration policies” states Dimple Rana, Co-Founder and Director of Deported Diaspora. “Due process is a core American value. This report demonstrates how essential it is to restore due process to the people and families who seek asylum, freedom and citizenship in the United States.”

Doua Thor, executive director of SEARAC, states,  “As a country that values justice and the human rights of individuals, we cannot put off tackling some of the country’s most pressing issues such as comprehensive immigration reform – and making sure that reform includes the restoration of judicial discretion.”


The Leitner Clinic aims to train a new generation of human rights lawyers and to inspire results-oriented, practical human rights work throughout the world. We work in partnership with non-governmental organizations and foreign law schools on international human rights projects ranging from legal and policy analysis, fact-finding and report writing, human rights training and capacity-building, and public interest litigation.

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. 

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