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Vietnamese immigrant hopes Trump will protect others like him from deportation




BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 12: The Vietnamese national flag flies on a diplomatic car outside the Great Hall of the People before talks between Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang and Chinese leaders on May 12, 2017 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Thomas Peter - Pool/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 12: The Vietnamese national flag flies on a diplomatic car outside the Great Hall of the People before talks between Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang and Chinese leaders on May 12, 2017 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Thomas Peter - Pool/Getty Images)
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President Trump was in Vietnam over the weekend, on the final leg of his Asia tour. It was a trip that Vietnamese immigrants here watched closely — especially those with criminal records.

In recent months, the Trump administration has ramped up deportations of Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained more than 200 last month. Roundups like these disturb immigrants like Tung Nguyen, who fears deportation for a crime he committed more than two decades ago.

When Nguyen had to check in with immigration officials last month, he says he was afraid.

"The two weeks before the check-in was a total deep depression for me," Nguyen says.  "Everything I was trying to plan to do around the house, it was almost like the last time I'm going to be able to touch it." 

At age 16, Nguyen was convicted of murder and robbery and sentenced to life in prison. He served just 18 years. Nguyen was granted an early release in 2011 by Governor Jerry Brown after he helped protect 50 people during an inmate riot. 

He’s now an activist who helps Asians and Pacific Islanders with life after incarceration. 

Nguyen says he used to think he was safe from deportation, but now he's not so sure. 

"The only reason I was able to stay in the country is by — thank God — the protection of the MOU," Nguyen explained to Take Two. 

The MOU or "Memorandum of Understanding" is a repatriation agreement between the US and Vietnam that extended deportation protections to immigrants who came to the US before 1995. Nguyen has been in the country since 1991. 

Immigration advocates have said, however, that the MOU protects some of the 200 persons detained last month. 

"That's one of the reasons I'm begging the government to consider honoring the MOUs until the negotiations are complete," Nguyen says. 

Press the blue play button above to hear about how Amerasians — children of US servicemembers — could be affected by stepped-up deportations. 

Responses have been edited for clarity.