It is a typical sob-sister report on a deportation matter, but it includes a reference to a rarely discussed law enforcement/diplomatic issue: What do we do about nations that accept hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, but will not take back their citizens as deportees?
The answer, sadly, is very little.
The story was in Thursday's Washington Post and its headline tells the paper's pitch: "After run-in with law, Cambodian immigrant's permanent residency is at risk".
The subject of the story is Lundy Khoy, now 31, a Cambodian refugee who was brought to the United States legally as an infant and, at the age of 19, according to the Post made a "stupid mistake" with illegal drugs and now may face deportation. (She did not make a single error — that rarely gets you deported — she made a whole series of mistakes, something we will discuss later.)
The public policy issue that Khoy's case illustrates is the long-time, consistent policy of Cambodia to resist accepting deportees; it does so by failing to issue them passports, and thus blocks the return of what they regard as undocumented citizens of their own country — hard to believe, but true.
The article stated:
A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that 1,894 Cambodians are in deportation proceedings. Since Cambodia started accepting deportees in 2002, it has taken only about 500. More were deported last year than ever before: 97 compared with 55 in 2010 and 48 in 2009.
Here's a nation whose development we fund to the tune of $600 million each year that will take only 97 deportees a year, in a good year!
Why does not the State Department threaten to cut that to zero until Cambodia starts accepting every deportee we send them?
Why do we continue to issue visas to residents of that country, any visas at all, under these circumstances?
The only answer is a tragic one — the State Department does not think that deportations are very important.
Returning to the Cambodian in Thursday's paper, Khoy, over a long period of time, handled her legal challenges with no skill whatsoever:
- As a child of refugees, she could have become a citizen before the age of 18, had her parents bothered to become naturalized. Apparently they did not do so prior to her 18th birthday because the Post refers to her as a green card holder. The family has now been in the country for 30 years.
- At the age of 18 she could have, independent of her parents, filed for citizenship; she did not do so. (Naturalized citizens must be de-naturalized before they can be deported, something the government rarely does, and probably even more rarely for drug possession.)
- At the age of 19 she was caught with ecstasy, the one mistake the Post recognizes.
- She then hired, or was assigned, an inept lawyer.
- With or without legal advice, she then made a whopper of an error, pleading guilty to possession with the intent to sell, rather than simple possession, because she figured her mother would be less upset with the image of her as a drug dealer, rather than as a mere possessor, a mind-boggling decision.
- Subsequently, she apparently has not found another lawyer who could claim that she did not have the benefit of counsel when she pled guilty to the drug sales charge, not knowing that this would lead to deportation; or, if she did, the paper does not say so.
The only thing that has prevented her deportation, so far, is Cambodia's ability to block deportations of its nationals, and that obstacle may disappear according to the Post.
While this article was like so many of its kind, dominated in this case by huge photograph of an attractive and sad young lady, the reporter did have the good sense to interview CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, who defended the congressional decision to deport aliens who commit aggravated felonies, as Khoy did.