A Cambodian man who faced deportation from the U.S. has been released from detention and returned to his family, while at least five others have been told they will be sent to Cambodia in the coming weeks, a U.S.-based advocacy organization said.
Ched Nin, one of the “Minnesota 8,” a high-profile group of Cambodians under threat of deportation, was released on February 24 after a U.S. immigration judge granted him a family hardship waiver, according to a statement by the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center released on Wednesday. The group said five of the eight had been notified of their upcoming deportation.
Mr. Nin moved to the U.S. in 1986 as a 6-year-old refugee and was detained by U.S. immigration authorities in August over a 2010 criminal conviction, the statement says.
Mr. Nin served a two-year prison sentence for firing a BB gun at the back of a car.
“My family and I went through a lot these past six months and my heart breaks for those who continue to be separated from their families,” said Mr. Nin, who has five children, in the statement. “I know there is still more work to be done.”
The eight, all legal permanent residents of the U.S., have gained media notoriety following a monthslong campaign led by family members and immigration advocates seeking to halt their deportations. A 2002 U.S.-Cambodia repatriation agreement allows for the deportation of Cambodians who have been convicted of a felony.
Julie Mao, an attorney with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, called the judge’s decision to release Mr. Nin because of family hardship a “rare form of relief.”
“We celebrate Ched’s release and the organizing that brought us to this victory, while recognizing the thousands of families impacted by deportations that are unable to access such relief due to our unjust immigration laws,” she said in the statement.
More than 500 Cambodians have been deported under the agreement since 2002, according to Phnom Penh-based Returnee Integration Support Center.
Bill Herod, a center adviser who has worked with Cambodian deportees for more than a decade, said it wasn’t unheard of for Cambodians involved in well-known cases to have their deportation orders dropped, but he was unaware of any Cambodian avoiding deportation by citing family hardship. As deportations often create serious social and economic challenges for families, he said he hoped Mr. Nin’s case would establish a precedent.
“Certainly many of those who have been deported, it has resulted in family hardship. They were the primary breadwinner,” he said.
Deportee advocacy group 1Love Cambodia celebrated Mr. Nin’s release while recognizing that many still faced deportation—currently more than 30 Cambodians, officials announced last month.