Decades after resettlement, Cambodian refugees vulnerable to prison-to-deportation pipeline

As the U.S. commemorates the 45th anniversary of the refugee group’s arrival, Southeast Asian American refugees still face hardships.

Saray Im didn’t know where to go on his first day of elementary school.

He remembered his dad dropping him off and that he struggled to navigate campus grounds on his own. Nobody told him where to go, and he didn’t speak any English at the time.

I’m, who is now 45, had recently arrived in the United States with his father, stepmother and sister after spending a few years at a refugee camp in Thailand. They had fled the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, under which more than 2 million people died. Among those who perished was Im’s brother, he recalled his father telling him.

I’m was 9 years old when he came to the United States in 1984. His family settled in Stockton, a city in California’s Central Valley, where drug dealers and shootings were part of everyday life, he said.

He remembered being bullied for his ethnicity, hardly seeing his father because he was frequently working, and his stepmother being an absent figure because she had a gambling problem.

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