Trump’s Vietnamese policy is abhorrent

US must honor promises made to our allies

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is attempting to deport Vietnamese immigrants and refugees who arrived in the US more than 20 years ago, ignoring a commitment honored by two previous presidents and striking a fearsome blow against one of the Commonwealth’s most valued immigrant communities.

Undermining long-standing covenants with people who risked their safety by supporting American troops during the divisive war in Southeast Asia is a cruel and destructive policy. It sets a terrible example for other refugees in more recent conflicts – in Iraq and Afghanistan – who will learn that they cannot count on the promises we make, even when they are guaranteed by law.

The Boston area is home to more than 50,000 Vietnamese, most of whom arrived after harrowing journeys as “Boat People” or parolees between 1980 and 2000. They survived a brutal war, during which more than a quarter million South Vietnamese soldiers died fighting alongside American soldiers. More than a million were wounded.  Losses in the North were equally catastrophic. Survivors in the South lived through horrific communist concentration camps and the unimaginable trauma of pirate attacks at sea. More than 250,000 of them perished in the course of escape attempts. The single most important reason these immigrants came to this country was that America pledged to the Republic of Vietnam that we would provide them with a safe haven and a new homeland.

Thousands settled in Dorchester, where they have been thriving ever since. In 2014, Fields Corner was crowned one of the 10 best neighborhoods in the country by the American Planning Association. Vietnamese residents developed affordable housing, a thriving nexus of restaurants and shops, and built a community center that offers a burgeoning array of cultural events.

More than 150 students of Vietnamese origin are currently enrolled at the adjacent campus of  UMass Boston, where they serve as community leaders and exemplars of academic excellence. These hard-working students are seeking an education that will prepare them for the thriving Boston job market and enable them to help support their parents and siblings. Their success is emblematic of the immigrant drive to achieve against the odds.

The Trump administration claims it is reversing the protections afforded to our former allies in Vietnam in order to rid the US of the undocumented and those with criminal records. But we know that such harsh enforcement spreads fear across immigrant communities regardless of status, leaving many people afraid to cooperate with police and making them even more vulnerable to crime, exploitation, and domestic violence. In the process, it traumatizes and disrupts established, peace-loving neighborhoods such as Fields Corner.

If forced back to Vietnam, these neighbors would face a frightening future of social ostracism and possible government repression. As abandoned partners, their lives would testify to the fickle expression of American loyalties.

Meet the Author

Katherine Newman

Interim chancellor, University of Massachusetts Boston
Meet the Author

Bao-Toan Than-Vinh

President, Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts
Meet the Author

Loan Dao

Associate professor, University of Massachusetts Boston
Massachusetts must stand against this abhorrent policy and illustrate to the nation that we understand how valuable our immigrant communities are, how important their children are to our collective future, and, above all, that we honor promises made to our allies.

Katherine Newman is the interim chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston. Bao-Toan Than-Vinh is the president of the Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts. Loan Dao is an associate professor at UMass Boston.