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Excerpted From: Cody Uyeda, Addressing Gendered Trauma, Identity, and the Crime-to-deportation Pipeline among Southeast Asian Men, 25 Asian Pacific American Law Journal 161 (2021) (248 Footnotes) (Full Document)


CodyUyedaNumbering more than one million, Southeast Asian refugees are the largest resettled refugee group in U.S. history. However, 45 years post-resettlement, this group continues to struggle across numerous measures of health, education, and socioeconomic wellbeing, and often finds its issues overlooked or excluded from America's refugee narrative. In the last few years, the Trump Administration has brought to the forefront one of the most pressing issues affecting the Southeast Asian community-- deportation. Since 1998, more than 17,000 Southeast Asians have received orders of removal, and over 1,900 have been deported. These numbers drastically increased under the Trump administration, with deportations of Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans reaching the highest they have been in over a decade 2017 and 2018 alone, deportations of Cambodians and Vietnamese increased by 279 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Importantly, 80 percent of these deportations are based on old criminal records, implying a significant crime-to-deportation pipeline. In addition to being severely detrimental to the Southeast Asian community, these deportations also highlight another troubling fact-- that the number of men far outpace women in detentions and deportations. What elements predispose Southeast Asian men to these outcomes? What are the impacts of these gendered detentions and deportations on the Southeast Asian community? Such questions suggest that a closer focus on the Southeast Asian male demographic is warranted.

Accordingly, this Note focuses on the Southeast Asian crime-to-deportation pipeline and takes the position that it should first be understood as a manifestation of trauma from Southeast Asian refugees' migration, resettlement, and adjustment experiences. This Note then argues that given Southeast Asian men's higher detention and deportation numbers, reducing the crime-to-deportation pipeline requires a specific focus on the unique and gendered issues that these men face. By contextualizing the social, cultural, and environmental experiences of Southeast Asian men as they intersect with the historical traumas of their community, this Note explores the gendered ways in which these men respond to their community's trauma, and how this may predispose them to crime, violence, and ultimately, deportation. Yet, despite such traumas, one element that remains constant is the agency of Southeast Asian men. As such, this Note concludes with a proposal that one solution to improve the outcomes of these men is preventative, community-based education focused on crime and deportation. Such education will help Southeast Asian men live cognizant of the deportation system, giving them agency over their behaviors and greater ability to navigate the gendered systems of trauma in which they live.

In this Note, “Southeast Asian” will refer to refugees, immigrants, and individuals from three countries: Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. “Trauma” will be a broad term encompassing conditions related to the refugee experience, assimilation, or the lived community experiences of refugees and their families. This term will also encompass diagnosable conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety, as well as the effects of larger societal constructs such as the model minority myth and perpetual foreigner stereotype. “Non-citizen” will refer collectively to refugees, immigrants, green card holders, and legal permanent residents who do not have full U.S. citizenship. Additionally, for the sake of simplicity, this Note will refer collectively to non-naturalized Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees, as well as those who are naturalized or are native born descendants of those refugees, as “Asian Americans,” or categorically as “Asian and Pacific Islander (API),” except where otherwise specified. This Note does not suggest that the experiences of each Southeast Asian national and racial group are the same, and recognizes that they each have unique trajectories and circumstances; however, for the purposes of this analysis, they will be discussed collectively in general, and specifically when necessary.

Part I of this Note will discuss the history of the Southeast Asian refugee experience. Part II will cover the development and current state of U.S. deportation policy, as well as the Southeast Asian crime-to-deportation pipeline. Part III will discuss the detrimental impacts of detention and deportation on the Southeast Asian community. Part IV will contextualize the experiences of the Southeast Asian community through the lens of trauma, including refugee trauma, resettlement trauma, mental health trauma, and traumas of identity in America. Part V will then discuss the links between Southeast Asian men and trauma, and how these relationships impact the crime-to-deportation pipeline. Finally, Part VI will discuss the potential for crime and deportation focused education to help mitigate this pipeline for Southeast Asian men.

[. . .]

Asian Americans have long been overlooked in American immigration policy, and Southeast Asians, even more so. However, now more than ever, the crime-to-deportation pipeline and its effects on Southeast Asian men deserve heightened attention. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made clear that it is “committed to directing its enforcement resources to those aliens posing the greatest risk to the safety and security of the United States.” But against the backdrop of the Trump administration demonizing and denigrating immigrants while stoking nationalist fears of dangerous “others,” we have to wonder whether the Southeast Asians being detained and deported are truly those who pose “the greatest risk to the safety and security of the United States.”

An examination of the complicated identities of Southeast Asian men shows that they are individuals caught in an interconnected system of trauma, racism, gender, and socioeconomic inequality that positions them towards crime, and in the cases of those without U.S. citizenship, permanent deportation. In many ways, the Southeast Asian male is a direct embodiment of many of his community's struggles, particularly in terms of masculinity, ethnic identity, discrimination, and violence. However, educating Southeast Asian men on the connections between trauma, crime, and deportation may help address the crime-to-deportation pipeline. By capitalizing on the agency of these men while also recognizing the continued presence of violence and trauma in their lives, such education that contextualizes the links between trauma and crime, and the consequences of criminal actions and how they relate to deportation, would provide these men with greater agency and control over the choices they make for their futures. Thus, while not a stand-alone solution, such education can help mitigate the crime-to-deportation pipeline and positively impact Southeast Asian men and their communities.

University of Southern California Gould School of Law, J.D. 2020; University of Southern California, B.A. 2015.

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