‘Uprooted’: California bill tackles prison-deportation pipeline

by | Aug 29, 2022 | World

Los Angeles, California, US – Phoeun You was just a child when he entered the United States in 1981, fleeing the Khmer Rouge genocide with his family from their native Cambodia.The family resettled in Long Beach, California, and You grew up in a neighbourhood where he says violence and discrimination were consistent parts of his childhood. He joined a gang, and a fight with a rival group landed him in prison on a murder conviction in 1996.
During the subsequent 26 years in prison, You started to mentor other incarcerated people, especially those from refugee communities who were coping with the legacies of violent dispossession. He earned a certificate in domestic violence counselling and was granted parole this year, hoping to use his new skills to help others in his community.
But upon his release, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) handed You over to the US federal immigration enforcement agency, ICE. While You was a lawful permanent resident of the US, his status as a non-citizen and conviction for a serious crime opened him up to potential deportation.
“It’s a double punishment,” You told Al Jazeera in a phone interview from an ICE detention centre one week before he was deported on August 16. “Instead of starting a new life and reuniting with my family I had to tell my parents, ‘Look, I’m not coming home.’ I felt helpless hearing their pain.”
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‘Dual system of justice’
In 2020, California’s prison system handed over about 1,600 people to ICE after the …

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