Today Reps. Michelle Steel (R-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Lou Correa (D-CA) led nine House colleagues in introducing the bipartisan "Honor Our Commitment Act" to codify protections afforded to Vietnamese refugees in the United States under a 2008 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. and Vietnam.
The bill would, in accordance with terms within the 2008 U.S.-Vietnam MOU, specifically prohibit the deportation of refugees who came to the U.S. prior to July 12, 1995 in the wake of the Vietnam War. July 12, 1995 is when the U.S. formally began diplomatic relations with the communist Vietnamese government. The 2008 MOU was signed by the George W. Bush Administration. The Honor Our Commitments Act is also in response to a 2020 agreement signed between Vietnam and the Trump Administration which allowed for the deportation of pre-1995 Vietnamese refugees in the U.S, in contradiction of the 2008 MOU.
"I'm proud to represent the nearly 200,000 Vietnamese Americans that live in Orange County. Thousands of these men and women risked their lives escape communism for a life of freedom in America. We owe it to them to honor our promises and ensure they can remain safe in the United States to live their American Dream," Rep. Steel said.
Under the Honor Our Commitments Act, an individual in the U.S. who is a Vietnamese national, arrived in the U.S. on or before July 12, 1995 and has continuously resided in the U.S. since, and is subject to a final order of removal, cannot be detained or deported. The legislation does provide exceptions for cases in which the individual is determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security to be directly responsible for harming the security of the U.S., or the individual is subject to criminal extradition.
"The terms of the 2008 MOU recognize the complex history between the two countries and the dire circumstances under which hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled to the U.S. to seek refuge from political persecution in the aftermath of the Vietnam War," Rep. Lowenthal said. "For more than a decade, administrations of both parties recognized our promised commitment to protect these pre-1995 refugees. However, the Trump administration's obsession with deporting thousands of refugees from Vietnam and other countries of Southeast Asia, culminating in its 2020 deportation agreement, remains morally disturbing and violates the clear promises we made to these refugees. I am proud to introduce the Honor Our Commitments Act to once and for all codify the protections of the 2008 MOU against the detention and/or deportation of any Vietnamese American who came to the U.S. prior to 1995."
"The majority of individuals who escaped Vietnam were South Vietnamese who fought alongside and assisted the United States during the war," Rep. Correa said. "Returning these refugees to Vietnam poses a threat to their liberty and security. Our nation must keep our commitment to those who fight with us. Vietnamese refugees have earned the right to be in America. We cannot return them to a country they left decades ago, tearing apart thousands of families and causing significant disruption to immigrant and refugee communities across the United States."
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Katie Porter (D-CA), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).