NEW: Tien Pham, 38, was deported by Biden and separated from his family after decades in California.

“America is my home. My family, my loved ones, my friends, they are all there,” he told me from Ho Chi Minh City.

(Thread)

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
Tien is a Vietnamese refugee whose family fled violence + resettled in the US when he was 13 years old. He was prioritized for deportation by the Biden administration due to an old teenage conviction.

He is one of thousands of people who have been deported by Biden.
Tien grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. His father had served in the South Vietnamese army alongside the US, and ended up imprisoned in a “re-education” camp where he was forced to work and ate rodents to survive. Tien faced severe violence in Ho Chi Minh City as a kid.
“Every time I went outside or went to school, I was a target,” Tien said. “The environment was very violent and corrupt.”

At age 12, he was brutally beaten and robbed. He was relieved when his family fled to California in 1996. They ended up at a housing project in San Jose.
Tien struggled with English + fell behind in class, despite excelling in school in Vietnam: “I was embarrassed and humiliated.” He faced bullying + violence and started drinking at a young age + got involved in gangs for protection. His parents worked long hours to make ends meet
In 2000, at age 17, he got in a fight with other teens. He and a friend were accused of stabbing + injuring someone. Tien was arrested, and even though he was still a minor, prosecuted as an adult + convicted of attempted murder. Under harsh sentencing laws, he was given 28 years
“He looked really young back then,” recalled Chanthon Bun, a Cambodian refugee who was incarcerated at the same prison 20 years ago + became like a big brother to Tien. “He was intimidated. I showed him how to navigate prison, how to keep safe... We grew up incarcerated together”
Despite all the hardships behind bars, Tien accomplished a lot. He received multiple educational degrees, helped teach an ethnic studies program + worked for a prisoner-run newspaper. When laws finally changed to acknowledge harm of long sentences for kids, he was granted parole
Multiple community groups had pledged to support his reentry, he had strong endorsements from prison staff + Gov @GavinNewsom approved his release last year.

On Aug 31, the day of his scheduled release, his family was waiting for him outside San Quentin prison. He never came.
“We thought we would all be joined again at our family dinner table,” said Tu Pham, Tien’s 74-year-old father. “We had always believed America is a land of hope … Things were hopeful until the day we were expecting Tien at the ‘freedom’ gate only to see him nowhere in sight.”
Tien was one of roughly 1,400 people who the California prison system transferred directly to ICE agents at the end of their sentences last year. @GavinNewsom has faced intense scrutiny for this policy of voluntarily handing foreign-born state prisoners to ICE for deportation.
Tien would’ve been home with his family and still a legal permanent resident if California hadn’t sent him to ICE. Instead, his green card was revoked and over six months, ICE shipped him across the US – to Colorado, back to CA, then to Arizona, Louisiana + Texas. During covid.
His lawyers filed for humanitarian parole in Feb after Biden took over. ICE denied the request + deported him and 30 other Vietnamese Americans on a flight in March. ICE deemed him a “public safety threat” even though CA had explicitly ruled he wasn’t a danger and safe for parole
On his flight to Vietnam, Tien tried to comfort the people around him, including some who barely spoke Vietnamese + had lived in the US for decades. Some were recently picked up and in denial: “They were really lost …They have families + businesses + properties they are leaving”
Tien said it was overwhelming to adjust to being free for first time since he was a teen, while also being thousands of miles from his family. He has visited relatives in Vietnam, but said it felt largely unfamiliar. He did recognize the street where he was assaulted at age 12.
Tien’s family hopes to travel to Vietnam, but his father has recently fallen sick. “I pray everyday for Covid restrictions to be over and that I would be strong to beat my poor health so that I can hopefully see Tien again.” For now, “We continue to see Tien over a screen.”
Tien said it was hard to think that his family reunification in California would never happen.

“I pictured it so many times. I just wanted to give my parents a hug and tell them, ‘Mom and Dad, I’m home.’”
Advocates (@aaaj_alc @anoop_alc @sleesays) have been fighting to pass legislation in CA, which would end transfers from prisons to ICE and stop deportations – and urging Biden to exercise his discretion and not deport people based on convictions.

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/f…
In February and March, Biden’s first two full months in office, ICE deported 6,000+ people, including many refugees like Tien who have spent many decades in the US and who are being sent to countries where they could face severe violence.

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More from @SamTLevin

4 May
Los Angeles sheriff deputies frequently harass the families of people they have killed, including taunting them at vigils, parking outside their homes, and following them and pulling them over for no reason, according to a new report:

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
The families of Paul Rea, 18-year-old killed during a traffic stop, and Anthony Vargas, 21-year-old shot 13 times, describe constant harassment by LASD deputies when gathering to grieve and honor their loved ones -- mocking, taunting, threats, stops + searches, arrests + more:
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There are many police killings with similarities to the George Floyd murder that receive almost no attention. Last year, LAPD killed Daniel Rivera, with officers holding him largely face down on the ground for roughly 7 minutes. He was unarmed and in distress. (thread)
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Even though he was unarmed and not moving, and had his hands behind his head, one officer kneeled on his back, two others handcuffed him, one shoved his face into the ground, and another shocked him with a Taser four times, causing his body to convulse.
Read 10 tweets
30 Mar
NEW: I interviewed trans kids across the US about the Republican bills targeting their rights. Many have faced these attacks for years and are now seeing the bills become law.

Here are some of their stories (thread) ⬇️

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/m…
Wyatt, 14, South Dakota, is banned from using the boys bathroom. He has to walk across the school to get to the single-stall staff restroom: "This is a basic human need ... I’ve asked my guy friends if they’d be uncomfortable if I was in the boys’ restroom. They wouldn’t."
Wyatt has faced anti-trans bills since he was 11: "As a 14-year-old, I shouldn’t have to worry about my rights being taken away. I should not have to go out of my way to make other people happy. I’m not a problem to society. I just hope by the time I’m 18, things are better."
Read 15 tweets
28 Jan
NEWS: Bounchan Keola, the incarcerated firefighter who California sent to ICE for deportation, is free after 22 years.

He was released from ICE custody yesterday and is now reuniting with his family for the first time in decades: Image
When Boun was working as an incarcerated firefighter last fall, he suffered a near-death injury.

He had two weeks left of his sentence at the time, but California transferred him to ICE instead of releasing him to his family. My story from November:

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/n…
Boun, 39, has been incarcerated since age 16. If California had not reported him to ICE, he would've gone home last year to his family and received medical treatment for his firefighting injuries.

Instead, he's been stuck in ICE jail, threatened with deportation to Laos.
Read 12 tweets
12 Jan
I spent time inside a South LA hospital with the highest rate of Covid patients in the region – the epicenter of the epicenter of America's out-of-control pandemic.

Here's what I saw + heard from frontline staff battling the catastrophic surge. THREAD:

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/j…
Entire families are hospitalized – husbands and wives, twin brothers in their 20s, parents and their children. Anahiz Correa, ICU nurse manager, recounted a mother and son who ended up dying in the same ICU room weeks apart. "The patients are much sicker and it’s not clear why.”
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17 Dec 20
A short thread on the California prison system's Covid catastrophe + vaccine access:

Advocates + experts are arguing that CDCR must urgently make vaccines available to incarcerated people, mandate vaccines for guards, AND do mass releases of elderly/vulnerable. Here's why ⬇️
CDCR has a long history of severe medical neglect + abuse, including experimenting on incarcerated people. Some will likely be reluctant or scared to take a vaccine. This mistrust is compounded by the fact that CDCR has spread Covid across the system, infecting 31,000+ people.
Incarcerated people in CA have witnessed CDCR’s botched Covid response, which has allowed guards to bring Covid to every single prison, leading to mass and worsening outbreaks and 104 deaths. So why would people inside trust a vaccine? says @jamesking0314:
Read 11 tweets

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