By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
He left Vietnam in 1996 to avoid being detained and arrested by its government. All he wanted was to find a job to support his wife and son. After 13 years of fighting, he hopes more people will hear his story, understand his reasons for staying in the U.S., and support his cause.
JoJo Tran is not subject to “voluntary departure,” said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 27.
“That neutral position substantially helped his chances of getting a new hearing,” said James Arima, a Vietnam War veteran and Tran’s friend since last Thanksgiving. “We petitioned ICE to ask it to join with us in a motion for a re-hearing in front of an immigration judge.”
However, he still faces deportation by the U.S. government if he does not receive political asylum and more financial contributions.
Despite a fundraiser held one year ago, Arima said, “There is a substantial need for funding. We know we need it soon.”
Tran moved to Seattle and filed for asylum in 1997. He took his case to the 9th Circuit Court and testified about his persecution by the Vietnamese government. The asylum was denied.
Arima noted that the court considered actions by the Vietnamese government to be a “policing action” and nothing more.
He has faced one setback after another from 2004 to 2008. The latest one occurred when his Feb. 8, 2008, appeal in immigration court failed.
Huyen-Lam Q. Nguyen-Bull and Jared Van Kirk of Seattle-based Garvey Schubert Barer lead his legal team, one still in need of lawyers experienced in immigration litigation. The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is also a team member.
“His current legal team is not abandoning him,” pointed out Arima. He admits that without the additional lawyers, “our backs are up against the wall.”
Nevertheless, both his legal team and the “Save JoJo!” organization are optimistic, with more information supporting his case in their possession.
Arima said, “We have been trying to get more public support and assistance from our elected officials.”
He has completed more than 9,000 hours of community service at a large number of local organizations including Catholic Community Services, the American Red Cross, and the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort.
“I love to do that work here because I came to America with nothing,” Tran said in a recent KEPX radio interview.
“They’re sharing and giving to me. I want to give back.”
“People have been working hard for him the last few years,” said Arima. “They’ve been very dedicated. That shows the kind of person he is.”
“People know him, and he has a base of support,” he added. ♦
For more information about helping JoJo Tran, visit savejojo.com.