Joint Statement from Refugee Communities to New Head of ICE Tony Pham

For Immediate Release
Friday, September 4, 2020

PDF Version Here

Allison Vo, VietRISE,
Rhenie Dalger, FANM,
Armando Carmona, CARECEN-LA,

The following statement by groups from Vietnamese, Central American, and Haitian refugee communities, was released in response to the Trump administration announcement that Tony Pham, a refugee who arrived in the US in 1975, will lead ICE.  

On Tuesday, September 8, the groups will host a zoom press conference with voices from across the country (RSVP here: 

Today, we raise our voices as refugees and the descendants of refugees – from Viet Nam, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; as organizations that have grown and persevered alongside refugee communities throughout the US; and as witnesses of the wretched treatment of our refugee sisters and brothers from around the world by the Trump administration, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and by ICE.  

First, far from a sign of good will, refugee communities see the political stunt for what it really is:  another divisive tactic to provide much-needed political cover for the Trump administration’s xenophobic ideology.  Trump highlighting a government official’s refugee background, after years of showing nothing but contempt and hatred for refugees, is obviously incongruent.  It’s a familiar political routine used by nativist politicians to divide our communities.

Second, we know representation alone does not equal justice for refugees or migrants.  Pham’s refugee background does not absolve him from his most relevant work experience, serving as principal legal advisor for ICE, as the rogue agency was weaponized against undocumented workers and Black Lives Matter protestors.  During his tenure and in the midst of the pandemic, ICE’s management of immigration detention centers exacerbated a public health crisis, with spikes in cases, unsanitary conditions, use of toxic chemicals against refugees and migrants, and continued deportations.  As long as the Trump administration’s agenda is guided by white nationalist hate groups, the nominal head of ICE will have an impossible time addressing the racism and myriad human rights violations committed in the name of “homeland security.”  

For these reasons, we will not allow refugees to be utilized as pawns for political gain.  We denounce the terror sown by ICE in our communities, the existence of migrant prison camps, and the dismantling of asylum protections that has resulted in over 60 thousand asylum seekers blocked from even reaching their loved ones or relatives in the US.  We implore Pham to truly honor his refugee background and bring human rights home for all immigrants and refugees today. 

What does it mean to “bring human rights home”? For starters, if Pham has any loyalty left to refugee families that are living through what his own family and Vietnamese families lived through 45 years ago –  he will take strong steps to protect refugees by announcing:  (a.) the release of all those detained in ICE’s migrant prison camps and their immediate closures, (b.) a halt to all deportations during the pandemic, (c.) work to guarantee protections for TPS and DACA holders before January 4, 2021, and (d.) an end to ICE collusion with hate groups.  To do otherwise would mean turning his back on refugees and siding with the xenophobic, racist worldview that questions our very presence and seeks to make us disappear entirely from this country.  

Delivered on behalf of – 

VietRISE – Orange County, California

Family Action Network Movement (FANM) – Miami, Florida

CARECEN-LA – Los Angeles, California

SEAC Village – Charlotte, North Carolina

Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees – Brooklyn, New York

VietLead – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Palestinian Youth Movement – Los Angeles, Orange County, Inland Empire, California

Comunidad Colectiva – Charlotte, North Carolina 

Haitian Bridge Alliance – Aliso Viejo, California

National Day Laborer Organizing Network – Pasadena, California

Orange County Justice Fund – Orange County, California

WeCount! – Homestead, Florida

Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition – Long Beach, California

Koreatown Popular Assembly – Los Angeles, California

CLUE – Los Angeles, California

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign – New York, New York

Southeast Asian Defense Project – New York, New York

Japanese American Citizens League – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) – Washington, D.C.

Tsuru for Solidarity – Seattle, Washington

Asian Americans United – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Khmer Anti-Deportation Advocacy Group (KhAAG) – Seattle, Washington

Southeast Asian Freedom Network

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center – Washington, D.C.

Mekong NYC – Bronx, New York

Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) – Los Angeles, California

You May Also Like…


  1. Jesus Y. Rodriguez

    Mobilize nationwide to protest Trumps racist anti-immigrant agenda and register new voters to defeat him in the November 2020 elections!

  2. Robbi Nester

    As the descendant of immigrants who came here as late as 1950, I object to the racist immigration policies of the Trump administration and its use of family separation and detention camps that deserve the name of concentration camps to intimidate its opponents.

  3. Quinta

    Ice needs to be dismantled much more so than the police ice had acted as an army of a wanna be dictator.
    You should be ashamed of your self. From a 75 year old great grandmother who has immigrants in my lineage from the 4 th palatine ship in 1610 if memory is correct we are all immigrants other than the native Americans.



  1. Advocates Representing Refugee Communities Unite to Send Message to New ICE Director - […] statement available on the VietRISE page —was signed by groups of Vietnamese, Central American, and Haitian […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


VietRISE advances social justice and builds power with working-class Vietnamese and immigrant communities in Orange County. We build leadership and create systemic change through organizing, narrative change, cultural empowerment, and civic engagement.

VietRISE is fiscally sponsored by Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


(714) 589-5496

14351 Euclid St. #1M, Garden Grove, CA 92843