August 12, 2015
In 2013, Bou was convicted of six nonviolent, drug-related crimes and given a one year sentence. Advocates say that his case is “double jeopardy” – having served time for a nonviolent criminal sentence that is then used to justify being jailed and deported by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“The punishment just seems so disproportionate to the crime he committed,” said his lawyer, Linda Tam, director of the Immigration Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley. “You look at his family and think, this isn’t going to make the situation any better for anyone. [If deported, he’s] going to have a lifetime punishment. He’s not a danger to society.”
Tam is trying to get Bou a U-visa. Bou was beaten and robbed in 1992. He called the police and agreed to be a witness in that criminal case.
Despite the fact that Bou’s case had “no identifiable victim,” according to his probation officer, Bou is still a top priority for deportation by officials. He was also previously convicted for possessing a firearm in 1993. After the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, many people like Bou became deportable due to their criminal records.
Chea Bou fled from the Khmer Rouge regime to Oakland in the late 1970s. “A lot of people aren’t aware of the different traumas that Southeast Asian refugees experience — genocide and violence that they experience at a young age, then facing language barriers, not a lot of support, and sometimes severe bullying when they arrive in the US,” said Katrina Dizon, policy manager at SEARAC. Advocates for Bou also say that his mental health issues, such as PTSD and depression, would be better treated here in the US.
Organizations mentioned/involved: East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC)