The Trump administration has reportedly unilaterally reinterpreted a 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam in order to pursue deportation for certain Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before 1995.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi told The Atlantic for a story published Wednesday that the administration has unilaterally reinterpreted the 2008 agreement signed between Vietnam and the U.S. under the George W. Bush administration. The State Department confirmed those comments in an email to The Hill.
The agreement barred the deportation of Vietnamese people who arrived in the U.S. before 1995, when both sides reestablished diplomatic relations after the Vietnam War. The war ended following the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government falling to Northern Vietnamese forces and the country's subsequent reunification.
The Trump administration believes, according to the State Department, that those immigrants who arrived before 1995 are now eligible for deportation should the government have a reason to begin such deportation procedures.
“While the procedures associated with this specific agreement do not apply to Vietnamese citizens who arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, it does not explicitly preclude the removal of pre-1995 cases," a State Department spokesperson told The Hill.
The State Department did not respond to requests for clarification on whether the change to the 2008 agreement was made in consultation with the Vietnamese government.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees deportation cases, told The Hill that there are "7,000 convicted criminal aliens from Vietnam with final orders of removal."
"[T]hese are non-citizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted, and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge. It’s a priority of this administration to remove criminal aliens to their home country," DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said.
The 2008 agreement reached between the U.S. and Vietnam previously stated that Vietnamese citizens are "not subject to return to Vietnam" if they "arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995."
It was reported earlier this year that the Trump administration was moving to make eligible for deportation thousands of Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before 1995, many of whom had criminal convictions.
Ted Osius, the former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, cited the "small number" already deported as a reason for his resignation announced earlier this year.
“These people don’t really have a country to come back to,” he told Reuters in April.
The Atlantic reports that DHS officials recently met with Vietnamese Embassy officials in Washington, but the content of their discussions was unknown.
Updated: 5:34 p.m.