Cambodian-American refugee who lived in Long Beach freed from ICE detention

Andrew Edwards
April 11, 2018


A federal judge recently ordered the release of a Long Beach man who, according to the ruling, was deprived of his Constitutional rights when immigration officers took him into custody last October.

Nak Kim “Rickie” Chhoeun, 42, is now a free man following the judge’s order, although he is still required to be under the supervision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. ICE officers took Chhoeun into custody in October, and U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney ordered his release on March 26.

“When the judge announced that Rickie was being released, it was of course met with cheers, applause and crying,” attorney Christopher Lapinig of Asian Americans for Advancing Justice said.

Asian Americans for Advancing Justice filed the lawsuit that resulted in Chhoeun’s release.

In his ruling, Carney wrote that ICE officers acted unlawfully by placing Chhoeun into custody with the intention of deporting him before he could have a chance to plead his case to stay in the United States before the Board of Immigration Appeals.

“Indeed, Chhoeun was not even provided the minimal safeguard of notice and a chance to say goodbye to his family, to notify his employer, or to contact an attorney,” Carney wrote. “Sadly, ICE’s actions deprived Chhoeun of his liberty in a blatant violation of his constitutional right to due process.”

ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said in an email that she could not comment on the litigation.

The judge’s ruling does not resolve Chhoeun’s personal legal issues involving his immigration status, nor does it settle the broader issue of whether other the government has illegally detained other people of Cambodian descent pending their potential removal from the United States.

Asian Americans for Advancing Justice is also seeking to have Carney certify a class action so challenges aimed toward the release of other detainees can be considered as a single case.

Chhoeun, born in 1975 in Cambodia, came to the United States in 1981 after his family escaped the Khmer Rouge’s terror. He is one of about 100 Cambodian nationals taken into custody last fall, and Asians Americans for Advancing Justice has argued that U.S. officials’ actions that preceded this case were part of an attempt to pressure the Cambodian government into accepting greater numbers of deportees.

Link to the full article.

Organizations mentioned/involved: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA)