NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Trump administration is reinterpreting a 2008 law that once blocked deportations for any Vietnamese immigrant who arrived in the United States more than 20 years ago, regardless of their legal status. Under President Trump’s interpretation, those protections are no longer valid.
The decision has caused unease among many in the local Vietnamese community.
“I think it’s unfair,” Helen Tran said.
New Orleans City Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen, whose district includes New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward, is critical of the interpretation.
“I’m really disgusted with the policy," Cindy Nguyen said.
Members of the Vietnamese community are pushing back against the Trump administration’s reinterpreting of a George W. Bush era law. The policy was meant to protect Vietnamese immigrants who came to America after the Vietnam War, like John-Hoa Nguyen.
“We moved from Vietnam to here and it was the American people who opened their arms to welcome us after the war in 1975,” John-Hoa Nguyen said.
He praised the country’s once open border policy but said he understands President Trump’s stance on immigration and his desire to enforce the law.
“Unfortunately, he’s moving too quick, abruptly. So, it catered some commotion among the Vietnamese community and also within the mainstream," Nguyen said.
John-Hoa Nguyen said he’s torn on the administration’s interpretation, but for those who arrived after 1995 and haven’t tried to become a citizen, it’s important in encouraging migrants to begin the process, he said.
And for those who immigrated, then broke the law, it sends a message.
“Make them a little more aware you should behave yourself when you’re in this country, don’t commit any crimes. Don’t be a criminal,” said John-Hoa Nguyen.
It’s clear many are upset over Trump’s reinterpretation of the 2008 policy.
“No one wants to be uprooted from their community,” Tran said.
Some estimate it could affect up to 70 percent of those who arrived since 1995 to the New Orleans Vietnamese community.
“I want to urge the administration to really review and reevaluate the policy,” Cyndi Nguyen said.
John-Hoa Nguyen said the interpretation urges immigrants to not just become U.S. citizens, but also contributing members of its society.
“It was the goodness of the American people, of the government [to] welcome us back in so we, in return, to reciprocate, the kindness of the American people, we should be a productive citizen to help to make this nation even greater,” John-Hoa Nguyen said.
According to reports, the reinterpretation applies to those who were arrested, convicted and ordered to be removed from the country by a federal judge.
Council member Cyndi Nguyen said part of the problem for Vietnamese immigrants is their trouble meeting the English language requirements needed to gain citizenship.