When laws break people: Cambodian immigrant voices

By Michelle Chen Feb 11, 2009

Tonight on WBAI’s Asia Pacific Forum, two stories of Cambodian-Americans uprooted by deportation reveal the human impact of little-known aspects of immigration policy. A segment on Keo and Borom Chea, sister and brother, reveals how laws that are ostensibly intended to kick out criminals end up splitting apart families. This is often a hugely disproportionate penalty for relatively minor offenses that have been deemed "aggravated felonies." Keo, who now serves as counsel for a congressional subcommittee, describes the irony of settling in America to seek refuge from war and displacement, only to be devastated by forced migration once again, this time at the hands of the US government. But on both sides of the globe, the crisis of displacement can also inspire creative empowerment. The show also looks at how one Cambodian refugee-turned-deportee has made the most out of his exile. Former gang-member Tuy Sobil (aka K.K.) imported hip hop culture from the streets of Long Beach to the slums of Phnom Penh with a youth initiative that now reverberates around the world. Some borders are more easily broken than others. Chea and K.K.’s stories are also featured in a documentary on repatriated Cambodians, "Straight Refugees." Image from Tiny Toones Cambodia website.