Long Beach resident Rot Mythong being held by ICE at Adelanto Detention Center

Local immigrant-rights groups have been phone banking the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since April 30 to advocate for the release of Rot Mythong, a Long Beach resident and ethnically Lao war refugee from Cambodia, from the Adelanto Detention Facility before he potentially contracts coronavirus.

Mythong was sentenced to life in prison when he was 17, and was granted parole after serving 29 years. The crime’s sentencing was not immediately known.

The day he was scheduled to be released on parole, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation made the decision to transfer him directly to ICE detention.

Many activists believe that remanding an inmate to ICE custody after they have finished serving their sentence in jail or prison is excessive and cruel.

California jails and prisons have the option to notify ICE when an inmate is released, but is not required to do so, according to Asian Prisoner Support Committee member Nathaniel Tan at a seminar on Southeast Asian deportation at the United Cambodian Community building in Long Beach on Feb. 18.

The Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Sanctuary Long Beach, Khmer Girls In Action and the May Day Long Beach Coalition shared information about Mythong on their social media pages, encouraging community members to call ICE at (213) 500-4912 and read a script asking for his release from Adelanto.

According to the script, Mythong survived cancer twice and suffers from asthma. He recently had an asthma attack, and reportedly has experienced constant coughing and dryness in his throat. With these conditions, he is at high risk of COVID-19, the immigrant-rights groups stated.

An online ICE database confirms that Rot Mythong is still being held in detention at Adelanto Detention Facility. Sanctuary LB did not respond to further inquiries about Mythong, as of press time Thursday, May 7.

Detention centers become hazardous places in an outbreak. This was shown when an outbreak of mumps in ICE detention centers spread to immigrants being held at 57 different locations in 2018 and 2019, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

While many Southeast Asian immigrants arrived in the United States with refugee status and are legally considered permanent residents, their residency can be easily lost if they commit a crime, including non-violent ones.

In many cases, decades pass between the offense and when those who committed them are deported. Middle-aged individuals, who have assimilated to life in the U.S. are deported for crimes they committed when they were teenagers.

California 47th District Congressmember Alan Lowenthal recently introduced a resolution to the House of Representatives that calls on President Donald Trump to cease the deportation of Southeast Asian refugees, promote equitable social programs for Southeast Asian American people and recognize their resettlement and contributions within the United States, according to a May 5 press release by Lowenthal’s office.

The deportation of Southeast Asians, especially Cambodians, increased exponentially once Trump entered office. ICE reported a 279% increase in the deportation of Cambodian immigrants from the United States between fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018. In fiscal year 2017, ICE deported 29 Cambodian nationals, compared to 110 in fiscal year 2018.

Lowenthal’s resolution references laws and policing practices that disproportionately affected refugee and immigrant communities.

“The War on Drugs, Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, expansion of the incarceration system and over policing of low-income refugee communities resulted in a significant number of Southeast Asian Americans coming into contact with the criminal justice system,” the resolution states. “Whereas the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 expanded the definition of what type of crime could result in deportation and limited due process protections for immigrants, refugees and other noncitizens; the Act also allowed the expanded definition to be applied retroactively without proper consideration of an individual’s lived circumstances.”

Southern California and Long Beach received an influx of South Asian refugees after the violence experienced in the region, such as the Cambodian Genocide, the Cambodian- Vietnames War and the U.S. war in Vietnam. Long Beach has the largest population of ethnically Cambodian people outside of Cambodia.

“Throughout its history, America has greatly benefited from the direct contributions of immigrants to our nation,” Congressmember Lowenthal said. “This year marks the 45th anniversary of the great diaspora from Southeast Asia, many survivors of which settled in the 47th District, rebuilt their lives, and added to our culture by sharing theirs. I am proud to introduce this resolution to remind us of the struggle these immigrants faced, to remember the challenges they overcame, and to celebrate contributions they have made to American life. It is also in honor of them that we urge the president to halt the deportation of Southeast Asian refugees, many who came to the United States as part of the diaspora. The story of the refugee is the story of America and we cannot turn our backs on them, now or in the future.”

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  1. I’m for Cambodian peaple being part of the 47 district. Contributing to the American culture. Deffinitlly! About Rot though. This man didn’t get life for petty theft. I was around back in the 90s. I know how it was first hand . Being shot by these sort of Cambodian folks. Visous. I’m sure this man has gang ties. Trg, efcc! He was sentenced to life and was set free. That’s a blessing in itself. But here’s what I would do to determine this man be allowed back in this country. Look at his crime and leaghth of time he’s been in prison. They don’t say what he’s crime was and I’m sure I know why. I been around these streets even to prison a few times. Had my time trying to hang with gangsters and I learned one thing . To kill is something set aside from all criminal activities. I have numourous acasions where I been asalted , stabbed , shot ECT. And I just don’t go out killing for any reason. Iv tucked my tail if you will. Been looked at like a punk. It’s been rough but I don’t care. Killing is not a option. The reason I’m still around and not serving a life sentence or dead. Plus if you would see prison doesnt reabilitate a person. I don’t care what they call it now. Especially after doing 29 years. It only adds to a persons underline violence. My opinion but remember iv been in prison. I know how it does and know what most of these violent offenders poses. Not normal. So me I’d have to say deportation is necessary. I know it’s not what rot or his loves one want to hear and im sorry for rot and his family but I’m also saddened for the family of who Rot hurt. I’d hate to be the person to make these disicions. But you asked for my comment and here it is.

  2. He’s at the end of the day a human being , he did his time and suffered more then just mental pressure but his health was at risk he finished his time and stood his ground and kept alive .

  3. First, civil liberties are not the sole possession of American born people and the constitution is not there to protect only white citizens. It is there to protect all people in it’s jurisdiction rather than stand as a warrant for callousness and thinly veiled nationalist bigotry.

    Secondly, we are obligated to look at the larger picture of generations of southeast Asian people traumatised by the illegal warfare America imposed on the region and the economic struggle suffered by those fortunate enough to reach our shores in it’s aftermath. Long Beach has a large population of southeast Asian emigres and has also witnessed significant issues with gang violence in these communities. It is ignorant and irresponsible to ignore the obvious correlaries among these factors.

    People are not disposable and Rot Mythong’s life is our responsibility both as Americans and as fellow human beings.

  4. This is a state agency in very anti-ICE state, with 29 years of experience with this individual. Their deliberate effort to transfer this individual directly to ICE for deportation, rather than see them on the street, should speak volumes.

  5. Q: before being incarcerated, why did he not become a US citizen, all of this deportation talk could have been avoided. NOW if he had a criminal record before his 18th birthday, he screwed himself. I hope his language skills are up to snuff.

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