A California-based community organization that advances social justice and builds power with working class Vietnamese and immigrant communities, urged Tony Pham to close Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s migrant prison camps, if Pham “has any loyalty left to refugees.”
On Aug. 25, the Department of Homeland Security named Pham as the new leader of ICE.
Pham is the top attorney at ICE in his role as principal legal adviser. He was born in Saigon and came to the United States as a refugee in the 1970s, according to his government biography. Pham became a U.S. citizen in 1985, following a decade in the country.
“When we came to this nation seeking hope and opportunity as refugees, I signed a promissory note to America,” Pham wrote in his bio. “I owe a debt for my freedoms and opportunities, which must be repaid. I do so by committing to my community as a dutiful citizen and to pass along my experiences and opportunities to serve those around me.”
VietRISE Executive Director Tracy La said, “For Pham to have been a Vietnamese refugee does not mean that he will lead ICE and treat immigrants and refugees with dignity and honor the human rights that they deserve… We implore Pham to remember his refugee background and do the right thing by honoring the human rights of all immigrants and refugees.”
In early August, ICE deported 30 Vietnamese immigrants to Vietnam. According to VietRISE, 12 were deported despite an agreement between the United States and Vietnam that no Vietnamese immigrants who resettled in the United States before July 1995 would be deported.
Phi Nguyen, the litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Atlanta, told NBC, “Given that [Pham’s] already worked for ICE within this administration, and this administration has aggressively ramped up targeting of Southeast Asian refugee communities, we don’t feel optimistic that there will be a change in how ICE is run.”