Recent news surfaced about negotiations between the U.S. and Lao governments to deport Hmong/Lao refugees to Laos. If agreements are reached, approximately 4,500 Hmong/Lao individuals with a final order for deportation would be affected. As a research group who studies the experiences of Hmong college students and who are predominantly Hmong ourselves, we strongly oppose the deportation of Hmong Wisconsinites or of people who are part of any other immigrant community in our state.
The Administration has suggested that deportations are legal and warranted because the deportees will either be “criminals” and/or non-citizens. This dismissive rationalization that our Hmong neighbors targeted for deportation are non-U.S. citizen “criminals” is an attempt to appeal to anti-immigrant nationalism, which is reflected in President Trump’s own anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric.
This stance ignores that nearly any legal infraction—including the most trivial infractions imaginable—can be considered a crime and grounds for deportation (but especially the “crime” of not being a U.S. citizen). It also ignores the systemic barriers to obtaining citizenship, including costly application fees, long wait times, and required English language skills. It requires time and access to resources to be able to learn English and navigate the difficult process for obtaining citizenship.
The trauma Hmong people endured as displaced people will only be worsened by these potential deportations. Tearing apart families for no reason besides appealing to anti-immigrant sentiments is an immoral and illogical policy.
Given Hmong people’s history of oppression and genocide in Laos, we have every reason to believe that deportation could endanger their lives. The Trump Administration is funding a “reintegration program” in Laos to support deportees—however it will be impossible to guarantee their safety or survival. This constitutes a human rights violation, violating the United States’ commitments under international law.
The proposed deportations are reminiscent of our government’s most embarrassing moral failures regarding immigrant groups, such as the seizure of property and imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII and the ongoing family separations of Latin American asylum seekers at our southern border. Ultimately, the Hmong people targeted for deportation are part of families and communities that love and need them. This is the fact for all American immigrant communities—on moral grounds, on legal grounds, on practical grounds, we oppose the deportation of our Hmong neighbors and everyone else who is a target of senseless and cruel anti-immigrant deportation policies.
If you or anyone you know is impacted by these policies, seek support from your local immigration services.
The Paj Ntaub Research Group
Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions
Wisconsin Center for Education Research