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MN Deportation Case Seen as Major Victory in Pursuit of Reforms

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Thursday, November 18, 2021   

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Refugee advocates are cheering a decision by an immigration judge to terminate deportation orders for a Minnesota man, who had sought to clear a criminal conviction from his youth.

His supporters hope it renews interest in changing some key policies.

Ge Vang, a Permanent Legal Resident, came to the U.S. with his family from Southeast Asia as a young child. As a teen, Vang had an encounter with the law and took a plea deal, not knowing the ramifications tied to federal law changes.

Jenny Srey, senior manager for civic power for the Coalition of Asian-American Leaders (CAAL), said like so many other refugees, he became a productive member of his community, but eventually faced the risk of being separated from his wife and kids.

"Families are tagged with a label and not really looked at holistically or seen as how valuable they are in the community," Srey asserted.

After he was flagged for deportation, Vang's conviction eventually was vacated, with the backing of the Ramsey County attorney, through a post-conviction relief petition.

In the next legislative session, the group CAAL hopes Minnesota lawmakers reconsider a bill to expand the scope of the law, allowing people to seek a review of their conviction. The bill has bi-partisan support, but has been mired in a legislative logjam.

Srey contended it is important to add a new circumstance under the law, one centered around people facing deportation who felt their conviction stemmed from substandard legal advice.

She noted many individuals caught up in the system speak little to no English, and have to plead their case while their family is left in turmoil.

"Sometimes people have lost their jobs because they haven't been able to get the proper documentation in time because it takes a long time," Srey explained.

Supporters of the law change say deporting someone such as Vang to the country they were born in creates even more personal challenges because many of these refugees are long accustomed to life in America. They argued these individuals have little recollection of life in their native country, and would have trouble adapting, in addition to being separated from their family.


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