A 2008 bilateral agreement between Vietnam and the United States states that “Vietnamese citizens cannot return to Vietnam” if they “arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995.” The Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2008 by the two countries postpones the immediate deportation of Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the United States before the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries on 12 July 1995. If one of the two countries chooses to waive the renewal of the agreement in January 2019, at least 8,000 Vietnamese immigrants will have to expect to be deported, as they are subject to the standard immigration law. He said some immigrants had been involved in serious crimes. But, he added, “there was an agreement in 2008 for business to be left in peace between 1975 and 1995.” The amendments to the agreement could make more than 8,500 people immediately vulnerable to eviction. Many of these members of the community arrived in the United States as refugees, fleeing war and persecution and had been living peacefully there for decades. The U.S. State Department and the Vietnamese State Department did not respond to requests for notice as to whether an intention had been filed, although an email from the State Department indicated that its press service would work on a reduced status in the middle of the government truce. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed in an email last month that a meeting had taken place between U.S. and Vietnamese authorities, but declined to give details. Interest groups expressed concern that the meeting did not focus on the agreement. Last month, there were reports of a unilateral reinterpretation of the agreement by the Trump administration. Mariategue said the U.S. government could claim to do so, but that Vietnam needed to cooperate in issuing the travel documents necessary for deportations.
“This is our response to how, as a community, we feel that the return agreement should remain as it is and should be extended to protect more family members,” said Nancy Nguyen. In 2008, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (formerly available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website but removed) was the first agreement signed between the United States and Vietnam on the issue of deportation; Hanoi had previously refused to be able to issue the necessary travel documents for the deportees. The agreement defined the parameters of all deportations to Vietnam and was considered by both parties as well as by Vietnamese and American associations as protection against all Vietnamese immigrants who arrived before 1995, without exception and regardless of whether they were not documented or convicted of a crime in the United States.