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This American citizen was deported to Cambodia: years later he discovered that he could return

Sok Khoeun Loeun returned to his home in Fresno, California after five years. He preferred to leave the country to be jailed after a conviction for marijuana. ICE says it has no data on the number of citizens expelled to other nations.

Sok Khoeun Loeun, 35, a man born in Cambodia who came to the US with his parents when he was a baby and who is a US citizen since he was 12 years old, returned to California 5 years after being deported.

According to Jacqueline Stevenson, a professor in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University, in Evanston Illinois, the Sok case is more common than previously thought.

“Since 2012, the US government has deported more than 2.3 million people,” he said.

Their research suggests that “ at least 10,000 of those deported were US citizens and more than 20,000 of those who were in ICE custody since 2012 were US citizens, most of whom were born abroad and automatically acquired U.S. citizenship at birth. through a US citizen parent or obtained before the age of 18 when one of the parents became naturalized. ”

I didn’t know he was a citizen

Sok Khoeun Loeun, 35, was deported in 2015 after Customs and Border Protection ( CBP ) agents threatened to return him to Cambodia, but with the help of a lawyer, he was able to clarify an administrative error about his citizenship status. It went back for two decades.

The fact is that not even Sok Loe himself knew that he was a legal citizen.

Loewen, who grew up in Fresno, was convicted of a marijuana possession charge in 2012 when he was 28 years old. It was then that the CBP of the era of former President Barack Obama launched a process to revoke his legal residence status.

Three years later, in 2015, Loeun traveled to Cambodia with his family, but when he tried to return to the US he was denied entry and was told that if he tried to enter he could be deported.

Like other immigrants with a questionable residence status, Loeun, who had studied mechanics at Fresno City College, decided to voluntarily move to Cambodia, a country he didn’t know.

At the time of his arrest, he was a single father and did not want to spend countless months in detention. Since then, he has been living and working in Cambodia, not knowing that he could return. He remarried, had another son and then participated in a legal resources workshop in Phnom Penh, organized by the Asian Law Caucus based in San Francisco. It was there that lawyer Anoop Prasad helped Loeun discover that he was actually a US citizen.

The family fled the genocide in Cambodia

Loewen had become a citizen under the complicated program known as derivative citizenship, in which children under 18 automatically receive citizenship status if one of their parents receives it. Loewen’s mother became a US citizen in 1996, after fleeing the Khmer Rouge, or genocide of the Khmer Rouge, the name by which the Kampuchea Communist Party was known that, after the Vietnam War, the departure of the United States and the overthrow of General Lon Nol took power in Cambodia on April 17, 1975.

Sok Khoeun Loeun’s mother ended up in a refugee camp in Thailand and emigrated with her family to the US in 1985. Leon was already 12 years old at the time, but neither he nor his mother knew of the category of derived citizenship and had never received any documentation of this. In addition, workers in the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is now part of the Office of National Security (DHS), did not change the official Loeun registry after their mother became a citizen.

“These mistakes have been going on for a long time,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. “It is very difficult to see if you are a citizen or not, and this happens more often than we know.”

Mary G. Hountmann, ICE spokesperson announced that Sok Khoeun Loeun, “was never in ICE custody nor was it removed by our agency.”

‘The data you request does not exist ”

According to a Los Angeles Times review, Immigration, and Customs Control, since 2012, has released more than 1,480 people from custody after investigating their citizenship claims.

Hountmann said the data regarding the number of deported US citizens do not exist.

However, in its Justice Department records and interviews with immigration lawyers, the Times discovered in 2018 hundreds of additional cases in the immigration courts of the country in which people were forced to prove they are Americans and sometimes, spent months or even years in detention.

The victims include a landscaper trapped in a Home Depot parking lot in Rialto, California and held for several days despite his son’s attempts to show agents the man’s US passport.

Also, a New York resident was locked up for more than three years in which he fought deportation efforts after a federal agent confused the father with someone who was not a US citizen.

In addition, a Rhode Island housekeeper was held in error twice, which caused her to spend a night in prison; the second time despite the fact that her husband had taken his American passport to a court hearing.

Asked about these figures, Mary G. Hountmann, ICE spokesperson, was brief: “The data you are requesting does not exist

“ICE has no jurisdiction over citizens”

Jacqueline Stevenson stated that the authorities of the Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) have “zero jurisdiction” over US citizens.

“For that reason, they don’t want to publicize the numbers,” of deported US citizens. “They have records, but they ignore them; if they make them known they are exposed to having to pay monetary damages ” if there are lawsuits against the agency.

Stevenson said he filed a lawsuit with federal authorities to obtain the exact number of U.S. citizens who have been deported to other countries, in order to file a report on their own and establish a legal analysis of that practice.

The professor announced that between January 1, 2011, and June 9, 2017, the Deportation Research Clinic she founded at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University found that of 1,714 cases of US citizens facing trials deportation: 1,020 were removed or signed their voluntary departure from the US (60%) and 656 (38%) were closed cases or they were granted immigration relief.