By Sandra De Anda (OCIYU)
A crowd of around 70 protesters gathered in front of Asian Garden Mall in Westminster on Saturday morning to rally for refugees. President Donald Trump recently announced plans to deport Vietnamese refugees with any trace of a criminal record–something that didn’t sit well in Little Saigon. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a statement saying, in part, that “these are non-citizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted, and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge,” in claiming deporting such refugees back to Vietnam is a priority.
Local community organizers from groups such as Viet Rainbow of Orange County, Common Ground OC, VietRise, and Viet Unity planned the action within 36 hours of hearing about Trump’s new agenda and counted the Korean Resource Center and Resilience OC as supporters.
The march proved lively with protest signs in both English and Vietnamese, some adding much needed humor, including one that read “Pho-get Trump” with a picture of a Trumpy toupee being crossed out in favor for a bowl of pho. Children even held signs that read “Resist! No ICE.” Protesters received supportive honks throughout the march as well as signals of support from local businesses. Spectators took pictures of the march and waved at people. In all, it was a colorful display of resistance!
Orange County, of course, is home to the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam so Trump’s agenda will more than likely affect this local community disproportionately. The march showed a local presence of three Vietnamese generations–those who were born in Vietnam, those who were born in the states, and the children of those born here. Vietnamese speakers, including Tung Nguyen, Lan Nguyen, Julie Vo, Vincent Tran and Tracy La, opened the rally with messages in Vietnamese and English to fellow activists about coming together as an intersectional community to fight deportations. They also acknowledged the upcoming deportation of 46 Cambodians who have been deported today, which is, to date, the largest number of Cambodian deportees.
Little Saigon is often deemed a conservative political stronghold, but an undercurrent of progressive politics is emerging. An Anaheim teacher mentioned working with undocumented students at the rally. “I know they have come here to look for opportunities to have a better future,” he said. “As a teacher my job is to ensure that they are prepared and have the abilities and a future to succeed in the future.”
Media outlets have promoted a narrative that the Vietnamese community has only now just decided to care about such issues, a point of contention at the rally. “I’ve seen a lot of articles saying that Vietnamese-American folks are showing up to support immigrants rights for the first time ever, now that it’s impacting our community,” said Lan Nguyen, a local organizer. “That narrative is untrue and dismissive of our resistance. I want to clarify that many Vietnamese-Americans have been showing up for other immigrant communities throughout our history in the U.S.”
Right now, Nguyen and fellow organizers have a list of demands they are sharing to keep up the momentum of the march. These demands include signing a petition to the U.S. demanding that they don’t change the repatriation agreement between U.S. and Vietnam, and demanding that Gov. Brown pardon Cambodian refugees, in another.
People were encouraged to sign up for newsletters from the National Vietnamese Anti-Deportation Network (VADN) and the Asian and Pacific Islander Re-Entry of Orange County (APIROC).
“The organizers of the march emphasized our solidarity with our Cambodian siblings facing deportation,” Nguyen said on Saturday. “We also hope that more members of our Vietnamese community will support the undocumented Latinx, Black, and Muslim folks in the U.S. as well as the Central Americans at our border.”