Reports of the Trump Administration seeking a repatriation agreement between the United States and Laos have recently begun to surface, especially following Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum's tweet announcing her opposition to this agreement. The repatriation agreement would make the process of deporting Lao and Hmong immigrants back to Laos easier. The Hmong and Lao communities have previously been able to avoid deportation due to concerns about human rights violations committed by the government of Laos.
A repatriation agreement could be potentially detrimental and devastating to the Lao and Hmong communities. As Betty McCollum stated, deporting these immigrants will split up families. Furthermore, returning to Laos can be dangerous. Many of these unnaturalized Lao and Hmong immigrants who are at risk for deportation are refugees. The Hmong people, in particular, have faced persecution in Laos. Deporting Hmong immigrants would put them at risk of being persecuted by the Laotian government: Hmong have been imprisoned and killed in Laos.
The Trump Administration needs to consider why these Lao and Hmong immigrants needed to flee Laos, as well as the part the United States had in the persecution of the Hmong people in Laos and the human rights violations committed by the Laotian government. Thousands of Hmong living in Laos are at risk of being persecuted and even tortured or killed due to the Hmong people's part in the Vietnam War. During the war, many Hmong people aided the U.S. in fighting against communists. The government of Laos, which is still a communist nation, still holds suspicion and bias towards the Hmong people as a result. Hmong immigrants from Laos, therefore, are not just refugees escaping from persecution by their government. They are also seeking to escape the consequences of American imperialism on their community. The United States should not be sending Hmong people back to dangerous circumstances that resulted from its own actions in Southeast Asia.
The repatriation agreement with Laos would prove disastrous for the Hmong and Lao community throughout the United States. For many Hmong and Lao immigrants, the threat of deportation is truly a matter of life or death.