As the Trump administration resurrects its attempt to deport Vietnamese people who came to the United States as refugees prior to 1995, Republicans increasingly are appreciating just how detrimental President Donald Trump could be to their party — especially in California.
According to Politico, the move could cause serious harm in Orange County, “possibly cementing the loss of a coastal county that had long been the epicenter of Republican power in California” and which took a brutal beating in the November midterms.
Democrats took out every Republican House member in Orange County, thanks in no small part to anti-Trump sentiment.
Why would deporting Vietnamese people cause further damage? They tend to vote republican.
A substantial number of those Vietnamese people, many of them war refugees, settled in Orange County, and a shared aversion to communism forged an enduring bond with the Republican Party — much as it did with Cuban refugees from the Castro regime.
While there are signs that younger Vietnamese-Americans have veered sharply to the left of their elders, there are still more registered Republicans than Democrats among Orange County’s roughly 100,000 voters of Vietnamese descent, according to Political Data Inc., a voter data firm used by both Republicans and Democrats in California.
A wave of deportations — or even pervasive rumors linking that fear to Trump — could erode that support, state Republicans said, with lasting consequences.
“It’s not just bad social policy. It’s incredibly bad politics,” said GOP consultant Mike Madrid, who has been vociferously imploring his party to renounce Trumpism and expand its electorate. He was among a group of former California Republican Party political directors who signed a recent letter urging the rejection of “messages of hatred, division and rhetoric that divides us by race.”
But the Trump administration appears determined to send thousands back to Vietnam:
Administration officials have said this week that a pact between Vietnam and America does not exempt from removal Vietnamese people who arrived in the U.S. before the two countries re-established diplomatic relations.
“We have 7,000 convicted criminal aliens from Vietnam with final orders of removal — these are non-citizens who during previous administrations were arrested, convicted, and ultimately ordered removed by a federal immigration judge. It’s a priority of this administration to remove criminal aliens to their home country,” Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a statement.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor at the University of California, Riverside, said the Republican Party will have to court Orange County’s Vietnamese-American population if it hopes to win back power.
“If the Republican Party has any shot at trying to win back Orange County they have to depend on Vietnamese-American voters to get it done,” Ramakrishnan said, and while those voters remain “very much persuadable,” he said if California Republicans fail to speak out, “there will be significant damage.”
Others have reached out to the administration in hopes the president will correct course and allow the refugees to stay:
Two former Vietnamese refugees who went on to win elected office as Orange County Republicans, Assemblyman Tyler Diep and county board of supervisors chairman Andrew Do, urged Trump to reconsider.
“Requiring these thousands of refugees, who have made mistakes in the past, and their families to be condemned once again to a lifetime of poverty and recrimination is the human impact we cannot ignore,” they wrote in a letter to the White House.
California’s outgoing governor began addressing the situation shortly after Trump became president:
Soon after Trump’s ascension, California responded by passing a law to blunt immigration enforcement by partitioning local law enforcement from federal authorities. Gov. Jerry Brown has sought to protect specific individuals of Vietnamese descent from getting swept up.
Earlier this year, the outgoing governor issued pardons to three Californians who had entered the country as refugees from Vietnam in their youths risked deportation for the crimes in question.
He’s also pardoned people with roots in Cambodia, a move sparked by a wider Trump administration crackdown on immigrants from Southeast Asia — many of whom were also driven to California after the wider fallout of the Vietnam War convulsed Laos and Cambodia as well.
Trump took notice of one wave of pardons, blasting Brown with a tweet asking “Is this really what the great people of California want?”