Despite Relief Ruling, Cambodian Still Faces US Deportation

A Cambodian man slated to be deported from the U.S. in March before being granted an emergency stay of removal continues to face deportation to Cambodia, even after a judge recently decided to halt his repatriation, his sister said this week.

Chamroeun Phan, 34, is one of two men still detained by U.S. immigration authorities from a group of eight Cambodians from the state of Minnesota who were jailed in August. The men, who collectively became known as the “Minnesota 8,” were the center of a campaign by family and advocates to halt their deportations.

Protesters call for the release of Cambodians detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Minnesota in January. (Creative Commons)

Five of the eight have been deported to Cambodia this year, while another was freed in February on family hardship grounds.

On May 17, Judge Kristin Olmanson of the Bloomington Immigration Court in Minnesota granted Mr. Phan relief from his order of removal due to the “extreme hardship” his deportation would cause to his wife, daughter and elderly parents, who are U.S. citizens, Montha Chum, Mr. Phan’s sister, said from Minnesota.

However, immediately after the ruling, the U.S. government said it planned to appeal the judge’s decision.

“We did not realize or were not prepared for what the government was going to do,” Ms. Chum said.

The U.S. government said it would appeal the ruling to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which hears appeals against certain decisions handed down by immigration judges, she said. The government has 30 days from the ruling date to appeal.

“Why this government just wants to keep a great father away from his 5-year-old daughter, to me is just unbelievably wrong,” Ms. Chum said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Shawn Neudauer declined to comment on Wednesday, citing pending litigation.

Mr. Phan was arrested in 2009 and served 40 days of a one-year prison sentence for causing $1,460 worth of property damage, Ms. Chum said. He was born in a Thai refugee camp, and immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1984 as a 1-year-old. He has never been to Cambodia and can only understand some Khmer, she added.

Since 2002, 566 Cambodians have been deported from the U.S. under a 2002 repatriation agreement.

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