Veasna Sany, also known as China, came to the United States as a refugee fleeing genocide in Cambodia when she was 5 years old. Her family had survived genocide and forced labor camps under the Khmer Rouge. Veasna’s family was resettled in an impoverished and violent part of Long Beach.Veasna and her family struggled with trauma from the genocide without access to mental health services leading to tension and arguments at home. Veasna escaped to the streets and began self-medicating with drugs when she was just a 14-year-old child.
In 1995, at 19 years old, she was arrested for a minor drug offense. Veasna accepted a plea deal but was not told by her attorney that in addition to the sentence that she would be deported. Despite it being her first offense, she was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving her sentence, she was detained by ICE and deported to Cambodia.
Veasna landed in Cambodia in 2004 as one of the first deportees and the only woman. Two years after arriving, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis which forces her to live in constant pain unable to walk more than a couple of blocks, do basic tasks, or maintain a job. Each day, she takes several medications to help ease the discomfort but her condition continues to deteriorate without adequate treatment. Her health is at a point that if she does not get a hip replacement, Veasna will not be able to walk at all. Paying for the surgery is impossible due to financial strain. With these challenges, living in Cambodia has been extremely difficult for Veasna. She depends on her family and her husband financially. Her hopes in coming to America are attributed to the fact that she would be able to receive better health support, find a job, be reunited with her family, and continue advocating for deportees.
Even though her convictions are decades old, she faces a lifetime bar to returning to the United States. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office can join a request to vacate Vesna’s conviction and allow her to come home. We are calling on community members to urge the DA’s office to vacate Vesna’s conviction and bring Veasna back home so she may receive the care she needs and be reunited with her family.