In late February, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency permanently halted the deportation of a Cambodian legal immigrant with an old criminal conviction, on the grounds that his removal would cause extreme hardship to his family.
Earlier in August 2016, the ICE agency arrested Ched Nin when he went into the local immigration office for a routine bi-annual check-in to follow up on his 2010 criminal conviction for which he completed a two-year prison sentence. In spite of having legal permanent resident status and having turned his life around, Nin was then placed into deportation proceedings two months later. Having lived in Minnesota his whole life, Nin would have been deported to a country in which he has never stepped foot.
Since October 2016, his family and community organizers like the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) have mobilized around his case, saying that his deportation would cause extreme difficulties to his children and elderly parents. An immigration judge agreed, allowing Nin to petition for a green card and was granted a 212(h) waiver on the grounds that his removal would cause extreme hardship for his family.
“Ched’s case is very, very unique,” Katrina Dizon Mariategue, SEARAC’s immigration policy manager, told ThinkProgress.
According to Dizon Mariategue, the immigration judge based her decision on the following factors: one of Nin’s children — who suffers from a rare heart condition and is not expected to live past the age of 25 — would lose health care and access to surgeries if she can no longer be on his insurance plan; Child Protective Services recommended that two of his daughters from a previous marriage should be placed with him so that they could have a better home or risk being placed in foster care; and that Nin was the only person who could care for and lift his immobile, elderly father.
“Essentially as you can see, all these people would really suffer greatly in the event he was deported,” Dizon Mariategue said, explaining that the judge said that she halted his deportation on behalf of his family. “This is the first time I’ve seen a case with this many factors of hardship. Usually the bar for a 212(h) is very, very high.”
Dizon Mariategue urged caution in hailing Nin’s victory as a sign for other immigrants in the same position hoping for a favorable outcome.
Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has signed a series of executive orders that strongly demonstrate his administration’s willingness to detain and deport immigrants back to their home countries, regardless of the severity of their old crimes and their community ties.
As the recent detention of immigrants with U.S. citizen children or those who were brought here as children show, there are many sympathetic cases like Nin’s. But Dizon Mariategue believes that his release was contingent on a variety of factors including nonstop community organizing over the past six months.
“His wife — she has been a tireless advocate — and reached out to so many community groups,” she said. “She got national media attention. She got the support of congressional leaders. We believe it was the advocacy of all of that happening. It was a perfect storm where all the factors aligned.”
As Nin gets the chance to reunite with his family, many other Southeast Asian immigrants may not have the same opportunity. A 2016 SEARAC report found that nearly 16,000 Southeast Asian immigrants have received final orders of removal since 1998. Many are still living in the United States because of unique repatriation agreements between the United States with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.