A federal judge has once again blocked immigration authorities in their current attempts to deport a Long Beach man and other Cambodian nationals taken into custody last fall.
U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney on Thursday handed down a temporary restraining order preventing U.S. officials from deporting Nak Kim Chhoeun of Long Beach and 91 other Cambodian citizens involved in a lawsuit immigrant advocates filed in October against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and others.
Carney’s order prevents ICE officers from deporting Chhoeun or the others at any time before Feb. 5. If the Long Beach man or others file court motions to reopen legal proceedings allowing them to challenge removal orders before Feb. 5, Carney’s order prevents any deportations from taking place before those cases can be resolved and possibly referred to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
“Sadly, for petitioners here, they were denied due process by the government when it detained them and threatened to deport them without adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard,” Carney wrote in an order that also relates detainees’ descriptions of inhumane treatment while in custody.
A local ICE spokeswoman could not be reached immediately for comment.
Cambodian-American petitioners challenging their detentions and removal orders have had serious difficulties pursuing legal remedies while in custody. Carney writes that authorities have taken detainees to various detention centers while in chains and, according to Chhouen’s declaration, have been subjected to strip searches, “meager meals,” confinement in a cold holding tank and have been forced to sit outside wearing nothing but their underwear as a penalty for talking during meals.
The same judge took action in December to forestall deportation proceedings to allow petitioners to remain in the United States while he could consider aspects of the case.
ICE agents took Chhoeun into custody in mid-October after he reported for a meeting with ICE officers.
Carney’s order provides some context to the case. Chhouen was subject to a removal order handed down in 2003 after he served a prison sentence that followed his conviction on charges on simple assault and possession of a firearm.
Citing Chhouen’s own declaration, the judge writes that the criminal case against Chhouen followed an incident that took place in about 1999. Chhouen was driving his friend’s brother through a dangerous neighborhood on an errand when other people threw bottles at their vehicle. The passenger fired a weapon at a parked car when Chhoeun tried to drive away. No one involved was hurt and police did not respond to the scene of the shooting.
Details of the legal proceedings that followed, however, are not clear. Carney’s writings show that although Chhouen contends he accepted a plea deal despite winning an appeal for a conviction on other charges, a lack of new hearings or his being aware of the details of those allegations, the government argues that Chhouen served time after a jury’s conviction.
Authorities ended up releasing Chhouen from custody because Cambodia would not allow him to repatriated into that country. Chhouen was born there in 1975, but his family escaped Cambodia and the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge when he was 3.
Chhouen has no arrests nor convictions since 2003. Carney wrote that the some 100 other Cambodian nationals who ICE officers arrested in October have had similar experiences.
“They are subject to removal orders based on crimes they committed over a decade ago, when they were in their teens and twenties,” he wrote. “Since the removal orders were issued, Petitioners were released from custody and seized upon the opportunity to become productive members of their communities.”
Source: Long Beach Press Telegram