Stopping deportations of Cambodians, benefits for Hmong veterans: Your AAPI newsletter

Maribel Bautista, Saman Pho’s wife, thanks those present at the rally who help all the families fight the state prison system’s transferal of their family members over to ICE.
Maribel Bautista, Saman Pho’s wife, thanks those present at the rally who help all the families fight the state prison system’s transferal of their family members over to ICE.

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It is Thursday, Nov. 7, and this is The Sacramento Bee’s AAPI weekly newsletter brought to you by yours truly.

Here’s a recap on the stories I recently covered and issues I’m following:

Family members, advocates and supporters gathered Friday at the state Capitol in Sacramento to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop the deportation of Cambodian refugees with criminal convictions living in California.

The coalition delivered a petition with 40,000 signatures to the governor’s office, asking for Newsom to pardon Saman Pho, who is being held by federal authorities, and to grant parole to Tith Ton in an effort to prevent him from being transferred to immigration officials.

“Pardons are a recognition that people are capable of redemption and change,” said Pho’s attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, Anoop Prasad. “People are more than just the worst thing they’ve done, or a single moment of a mistake they made as a teenager.”

In other news, former Vietnam War refugee Philya Thach who had regularly checked in with ICE for the past 20 years, faces deportation to Cambodia, a country he’s never visited, after agents stormed his home in California earlier this month without a valid warrant, NBC News reports. After settling in a neighborhood in west Charlotte as refugees to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide, Thach was arrested for petty theft and breaking and entering vehicles when he was 18. He had little financial resources and a child on the way.

The deportation of Cambodian nationals has increased by 279 percent in the past two fiscal years as the Cambodian government caved to U.S. pressure by the end of 2017 to issue 50 travel documents required for the U.S. to carry out a deportation. The article has more context.

A bill in the Wisconsin Legislature would extend state benefits to Hmong veterans of the Vietnam War, the Milwaukee Independent reports. An advocate said the recognition of their services is “long overdue” and that the change could help raise awareness to history and about the Hmong people in the United States. The Hmong veterans fought alongside the U.S. military during the Vietnam War and deserve the same recognition and assistance, said Mary Kolar, State Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, an author of the bill, said the cost of the expanding benefits is “undetermined” because the exact number of Hmong veterans is unknown, but will look into statistics and do community outreach with education to identify that.

Earlier this year, Gov. Tony Evers issued a proclamation to mark May 14, 2019, as Hmong-Lao Veterans Day.

Ajay Kumar was one of nearly 9,000 Indian asylum seekers entering the United States in 2018, a remarkable rise compared to the year before, with roughly 3,000 apprehended. The increase, reports the New Yorker, is due to a mix of political and economic factors, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming to power. But ICE has been trying to catch Indian migrants – 300 of them were deported in Mexico before they could even cross the border – due to a deal between Mexico and the Trump administration to avoid tariffs on Mexico exports. Read the story to learn about Kumar’s experience under ICE detainment.

Osseo Area Schools’ English language teacher Pang Yang started a Hmong language class in Minnesota, now teaching 250 students, to get Hmong students engaged in school and receive more recognition for a language that hasn’t been part of classrooms. The class also made her students “fell in love” with their people, culture and customs, and their writing in both English and Hmong improved.

Read this L.A. Times story on how a pastor and his wife travel regularly to all of California’s 35 state prisons and six federal penitentiaries – at times sleeping on a mattress in their minivan – to visit Korean and Korean American prisoners and their families in the community, after receiving a letter from the Orange County Jail.

This story documents the history and evolution of how bubble tea became far more than just a drink to young Asian Americans in Southern California, tracing its origin back to the Tang Dynasty in China in AD 618-907 and how it made its way to the U.S. and became a symbol of the “AZN pride” from the late 90s to early aughts. If you have cravings, it’s time to revisit this article by The Bee on best boba teas in Sacramento.

Give this story a listen – Capital Public Radio interviewed Pacific Island immigrants who used to work at Zombie Hut, a Polynesian-themed restaurant and nightclub in South Sacramento. The place offered an opportunity to new immigrants to help make a new life in the United States.

For things to do in Sacramento, mark your calendar for a symposium on “Asian American Studies: The Field and it’s Future” on Nov. 16 at UC Davis, featuring a panel of Asian American Studies alumni who have pursued careers in education.

Hmong Youth and Parents United and Hmong Innovating Politics are recruiting volunteers to help with the 2020 Census outreach in North Sacramento. If you are interested, fill in this form and make time for a meeting this Saturday!

Finally: What do you want to read about on Sacramento or California’s AAPI population or newsletter? What are you curious about? What topics do you want to see more coverage of? Do you have any questions that have been on your mind?

Send them to me, Theodora Yu, at tyu@sacbee.com. That’s what I am here for.

That’s it for this week’s newsletter. Thank you for reading!

Theodora Yu, July 16, 2019. Daniel Kim dkim@sacbee.com

Theodora Yu covers Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in California for The Sacramento Bee. She is a member of Report for America’s 2019 corps of journalists.

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Theodora Yu covers Asian American issues for The Sacramento Bee. She is a Hong Kong native and a Columbia Journalism School alumna with an interest in immigration and climate change issues.