A man raises incense to his forehead as he pays his respects at the Vietnam War Memorial near the Little Saigon neighborhood in Westminster, Calif., on April 28, 2005. (David McNew/Getty Images)
House Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) have teamed up to propose a bill in the coming weeks to protect certain Vietnamese refugees from detention and deportation.
This is the third time such a bill has been proposed in Congress since the Trump administration reversed a 2008 agreement with Vietnam that shielded many such refugees.
The “Honor Our Commitment Act” will prohibit the deportation of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants who came to the U.S. prior to July 12, 1995, the date the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in the wake of the Vietnam War.
Rep. Lou Correa and Rep. Michelle Steele hold an old-style pre-communist Vietnamese flag in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of the Office of Rep. Michelle Steel)
The bill will be announced sometime after Sept. 30, according to Ms. Steel. In addition to being co-chairs of the Congressional Vietnam Caucus, both members also retain large populations of Vietnamese residents in their Orange County districts, which they say has played a major role in their advocacy for such groups.
The Honor Our Commitment Act was first introduced
in 2020 after an agreement was made between Vietnam and the Trump administration that allowed for the deportation of pre-1995 Vietnamese refugees in the U.S.—in contradiction of a 2008 Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Bush administration, which said such Vietnamese citizens were not eligible for deportation.
Another bill with the same name was introduced
in 2022, but both failed to pass.
“After the fall of Saigon, thousands of men, women, and children came to the United States in search of freedom,” Ms. Steel said in a recent statement. “It is our duty to keep our promises to these Vietnamese Americans, who value democracy and liberty above all else. I urge my colleges to join me in supporting this legislation and protecting our fellow Americans.”
Flowers with messages of gratitude are left at the Vietnam War Memorial where a statue depicting an American soldier and a South Vietnamese soldier are surrounded by American and old-style Vietnamese flags near the Little Saigon section in Westminster, Calif., on April 28, 2005. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Ms. Steel, whose parents escaped North Korea before she was born during the Korean War, said she sees parallels between her family and the Vietnamese community’s plight following the communist takeover in their region during the Cold War.
“I’m passionate about this. We cannot [send] somebody who came to this country for freedom and democracy back to Vietnam. This is a death sentence,” Ms. Steel told The Epoch Times. “Both my parents fled from North Korea from communism. So I know how communism works ... and the persecution under these regimes.”
Such persecution, Ms. Steel said, includes religious and political persecution of minority groups like Christians who she said will likely be targeted and jailed by the Vietnamese government once they are deported. According to the Congresswoman, over 7,000 Vietnamese refugees in the Orange County area are at risk of being deported.
Rep. Lou Correa with Rep. Michelle Steele in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of the Office of Rep. Lou Correa)
According to Ms. Steel, Vietnamese leaders are responsible for severe human rights violations against their perceived adversaries, including imprisoning over 170 religious and political minorities.
Mr. Correa echoed similar sentiments, saying it’s important to stand by the Vietnamese community and honor U.S. protections for such groups. Orange County is home to 200,000 Vietnamese people, which is the largest population outside of Vietnam, according to the Congressman.
“It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s really not,” Mr. Correa told The Epoch Times. “This is an issue of showing our allies and future allies that for those who stand with America, America will stand with them. It’s very simple.”