Hmong Student Union addresses proposed deportation policy

Blaine Brown , Copy Editor

The Hmong Student Union held an open meeting on March 5 to discuss the ongoing threat of deportation to the Hmong and Lao refugee communities.

The Trump administration is considering deporting Hmong and Lao non-citizens back to Laos. The administration entered negotiations with the Lao government to set up and fund a “reintegration” program for those deported.
The HSU put out a statement on Feb. 28 via Facebook condemning the proposal of deportations and the negotiations between the two governments.

HSU Executive Board members expressed their discontent and shock with the news.

“It was difficult hearing news of the proposal,” Secretary Lou Lee said. “At first, I had hopes of the proposal not being true. However, as more news came out and confirmation of the negotiations were stated, I began to realize the actual weight of the issue.”

“When I first saw news of it, I found it kind of hard to believe,” HSU Oshkosh Student Association Representative and Marketing and Media Specialist Mai Lee Xiong said. “I began to realize how serious it actually was.”

Laos’ government is known for its repressive tactics and violation of human rights. Reports from the Human Rights Watch mention strict opposition to freedom of speech and “widespread judicial corruption.”

In addition, political dissidents are often prosecuted under obscure laws that specifically target activists.

“Students are scared for their families and even their peers who are directly affected by this proposal,” Max Khang, Multicultural Education Center representative and public relations manager, said. “Families, who have survived communism and genocide, are fearful of being sent back to a country who has broken human rights violations before in history.”

If the Trump administration commits to this policy, students would see family and fellow students distressed because they are facing possible removal from the country.

Treasurer Nou Chi Vang said this is a time that students may be skeptical of their belonging at UWO.

“Right now, it causes stress on individual students concerning their close family members, and it’s going to affect how a Hmong or Lao student is accepted and belongs to the campus whether we are able to seek support here,” she said.

The meeting comes after Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., introduced a bill in Congress designed to halt deportations for Hmong and Lao refugees for five years, NBC News reported. HSU President Doua Xiong was cautious but optimistic about the bill.

“Although this is good news, it does not guarantee anything,” she said.

The HSU said that there is a way for people to help.

“Aside from seeking information from Hmong individuals, allies could help inform people about what is going on,” the HSU said. “Help us spread awareness of this situation, as awareness will be a major step into making change.”

There are various on- and off-campus events and actions supporting the Hmong and Lao communities.

Among those actions, UWO College Democrats circulated a petition to gather signatures in support of the Hmong and Lao communities and a resolution has been introduced to the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors intended to voice the board’s opposition to the proposed federal policy.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the resolution on March 17 at 6 p.m.