For too long, deportations have been an American tradition. No presidential administration has rolled back deportations regardless of how proven inhumane theyare. Rather, administrations have funded and built upon each other to make the United States the largest deporting country this world has ever seen. The Trump Administration has taken xenophobia and racism to record levels.
As we fight to stop the Trump administration’s attacks, we must also imagine what comes next. How do we heal from decades of attacks and deportations?
The Cambodian American community has struggled to heal from violence since our arrival as refugees to this country facing war, genocide, refugee camps, poverty, gang violence, incarceration, and deportation.At every turn of systemic and institutional violence, the Cambodian American community has remained resilient, resisting any form of forced separation thrown their way.
The United States government has had their hand in policing, restricting, and limiting human bodies since their arrival as a global superpower. For the Cambodian community, the policing of the Cambodian body began with the secret bombing of Cambodia, the U.S. backed genocide, refugee resettlement into America’s urban sprawls, and again with the forced removal of Cambodian people through deportation. Cambodian families have lost millions of people to a U.S. backed genocide, and now we keep losing our families to state sanctioned separation.
For years, the Cambodian community has fought back against seemingly endless waves of raids. We’ve organized against prisons and detentions, demanded pardons from governors, and staged direct actions. We did this not just out of a deep love for our community,but also knowing that when we lift from the bottom, when we insist on the humanity of former gang members and people who served decades in prison, we lift everyone up and can end deportations for everyone. We’ve won improbable victories and stopped deportation after deportation.
The day is coming that we will abolish ICE. The raids will stop and detention centers will be shuttered. What about the next day? Countless families will remain torn apart by the violence of decades of mass deportation. We must begin imagining what it looks like to repair that harm and reunite families. We must imagine what this world would be like if we fought for folks who have been deported like we fight for folks who face deportation–like we are fighting for the only chance to be with our loved ones uninterrupted.
To imagine that world, we began talking to, meeting, and organizing with people who had been deported. Life doesn’t stop when someone is deported and neither does the fight. People who had been deported said that they felt like they were serving a life sentence never being able to see their families.
The Right to Reunite campaign will end the restriction of human migration and give formerly incarcerated Cambodian community members their right to be reunited with their families. We are beginning the work of imagining the world we want to build - a world where families separated by deportation and borders are together.
The Right to Reunite campaign is more than bringing people home. The Right to Reunite campaign is a stance against the forced removal, the physical restriction, and family separation of people impacted by all violence brought upon by the United States.
We are demanding that the United States and Cambodia renegotiate the deportation agreement signed in 2000 to acknowledge American responsibility for years of illegal carpet bombing and genocide. Such an agreement will stop deportations and allow families torn apart by genocide to not have to suffer separation through deportation.