Like me, An Thanh Nguyen is a Vietnamese refugee. We both came here as children. After a life largely spent in Santa Ana, I became the city’s first Vietnamese American council member last year. Nguyen, whose family lives in nearby Cypress, is facing deportation to Vietnam.
I know all too well the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that confront families and children seeking to rebuild their lives in a foreign land. Like many Vietnamese refugees, Nguyen’s father fought alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War; he spent four years as a prisoner of war. After Nguyen’s mother fled the country in 1985, her seven children finally joined her in 1990.
While resettling in the U.S., Nguyen — facing poverty, racism and bullying — struggled to fit in and feel at home. He was a young man when his life took a wrong turn, and he committed several robberies. While serving more than 20 years in state prison, he took advantage of programs that could help him turn his life around.
Yet, upon completing his prison sentence in October 2019, he was immediately transferred to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement instead of being released to his family and community or given the opportunity to rebuild his life. He was detained, released, detained again — and was last released a year ago.
However, his nightmare has not ended. Nguyen can be deported at any time for being an immigrant who committed a crime — despite a 2008 agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam that excludes Vietnamese nationals who arrived here before July 12, 1995, from being deported to Vietnam.
More than 2,000 Southeast Asian refugees, including Vietnamese refugees who arrived before 1995, have been deported from the U.S. since 2017. As of 2018, about 8,000 Vietnamese immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age had been impacted by the criminal justice system and the immigration system — both of which can be unforgiving. Nearly 7,700 Vietnamese immigrants currently facing deportation have a criminal conviction.
This detention of immigrants who have already served their prison sentences is known as “double punishment.” Even though Nguyen is no longer in ICE detention, he still wakes up every day unsure whether he will be deported to Vietnam. ICE can choose at any moment to expel him from the U.S., and only a pardon from Gov. Gavin Newsom can prevent that from happening.
Newsom must immediately use his executive power to pardon Nguyen, who is among the thousands of immigrants who continue to face potential deportation to a country most have not seen since they were children.
And once AB 937 makes its way through the state Legislature, Gov. Newsom must sign it into law. The bill, introduced in February, would protect immigrants who have been deemed eligible for release from being transferred from state prisons and local jails to ICE detention. Leading Asian American organizations such as VietRise and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California have made clear that this bill is needed to prevent immigrants like Nguyen from being unjustly transferred to ICE detention after completing their jail or prison sentences.
My November election to the City Council in Santa Ana — which has one of the nation’s largest immigrant communities — came after years of attacks on immigrant and refugee communities by the Trump administration, which increased Southeast Asian detainment and deportations by ICE by more than 100% across the country. I am the representative for Ward 1, which has Santa Ana’s largest population of Vietnamese residents, and my constituency has been especially hurt by these attacks.
Despite the Biden administration’s promises to do better by our country’s Asian immigrant communities, ICE deported about 33 Vietnamese immigrants and refugees to Vietnam on March 15. A day before the flight departed, protesters in Westminster Park chanted, “Deporting Vietnamese refugees is anti-Asian violence.” I agree.
The continued deportation of victims of war and of immigrants and refugees is not only wrong but also unconscionable and cruel. The country cannot continue to perpetuate this hateful, inhumane practice.
Thai Viet Phan is a member of the Santa Ana City Council. Her letter to Gov. Newsom in support of An Thanh Nguyen’s pardon can be found here. A petition in support of Nguyen can be found here.
Last year, OCCET and partners led field to ensure everyone in the community was counted through the decennial Census. Building upon the work, we have launched the People’s Redistricting Alliance — our coordinated grassroots work in 2021 to draw districts that best represent community voices.
On February 18, we organized a workshop with over 50 community leaders where we discussed our goals as a county-wide alliance in Orange County. In addition, Dan Ichinose from OCCET and Julia Marks from ACLU presented the basic principles of redistricting to ground our understanding of the topic. Using Zoom’s translation functionality, we were able to provide English to Spanish and Spanish to English interpretation to participants.
On March 31st, we will be delving deeper into how the concept of Communities of Interest impacts redistricting.
WASHINGTON — The delivery date for the 2020 census data used in redistricting, delayed first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by the Trump administration’s interference, now is so late that it threatens to scramble the 2022 elections, including races for Congress.
The Census Bureau announced on Friday that it has pushed back its deadline for releasing the population figures needed for drawing new districts for state legislatures and the House of Representatives until Sept. 30. That is six months beyond the usual March 31 deadline and two months beyond the July 31 date that the agency announced last month.
The delay means there will be less time for the public hearings and outside comment required in many states, and less time once maps are drawn to contest new district lines in court, as often happens after redistricting.
“The concern in some of those states is that the legislators will simply use a special session to secretly pass maps with zero public scrutiny, and then count on a tight timetable to eke out at least one election cycle” before a court could require new maps to be drawn, said Kathay Feng, the redistricting and representation director at Common Cause.
The challenges extend beyond just drawing up districts. State and local election officials need time after new political maps are approved to redraw voting precincts and overhaul voter rolls to ensure that everyone is directed to the proper place to vote. And prospective candidates generally cannot file for office until they know whether they live within the new boundaries of the districts they are seeking to represent.
“States are literally sitting on their hands, asking, ‘When will the data come?’” said Jeffrey M. Wice, an adjunct professor at New York Law School and a longtime expert on census and redistricting law.
The Census Bureau’s delay stems mostly from problems the pandemic caused in last year’s counts of certain places, including college dorms and housing for agricultural workers. College students, for example, should be counted in dormitories and apartments near their schools, but the pandemic sent most students home last spring just as the census was starting. Now experts must find and locate them properly — and also ensure they are not double-counted as living with their parents.
Such problems can be fixed, Census Bureau officials say, but doing so takes time. The location of millions of people is in play, and allotting or placing seats during reapportionment and redistricting can turn on the location of hundreds.
It remains unclear how serious the political repercussions of the delay will be, but early indications are that Democrats have more reason to worry.
By Mr. Li’s calculation in a report issued on Thursday, Republicans will most likely draw the maps for 181 House seats and Democrats for 49 seats, possibly rising to 74 if the New York Legislature (which is controlled by Democrats) chooses to override the state’s new independent redistricting commission.
The map for the rest of the seats in the House will be drawn either in states where power is split between the parties or in states with nonpartisan redistricting commissions, which have mostly proliferated in blue states like California and Virginia and purple states like Michigan.
That means Republicans, who have already shown an appetite for extreme gerrymandering in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin, could benefit disproportionately if too little time exists to contest maps drawn by legislatures for 2022 and the rest of the decade.
The biggest targets for increasing one party’s share of Congress are the fast-growing Southern states of Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, where Republicans oversee the drawing of maps through control of both houses of the legislature.
In Texas, Mr. Li expects Republicans to draw maps that would ensure Republican control of three new House seats that the state is expected to add because of population growth, and two existing seats now held by Democrats. The delay in receiving census data “could be used in some states to game the redistricting process, by leaving less time for legal challenge,” Mr. Li said.
“It used to be, for example, that Texas finished redistricting in June, which gave affected parties six months to litigate,” he said. “Now a map might not be approved until November, which gives you less time to gather evidence and expert testimony.”
Suits that challenge redistricting often involve complicated fact-finding about whether a state has engaged in racial gerrymandering (either packing Black and Latino voters into a small number of districts to limit the scope of their political power, or spreading them thinly so they cannot easily elect a candidate).
Democrats could try to squeeze out a few more seats in states they control through gerrymandering. But outside of New York, where the Democratic-controlled Legislature has the power to reject maps drawn by an independent commission, the party has slimmer pickings, Mr. Li said.
Some Democrats are more sanguine. Population shifts in fast-growing states like Texas are concentrated in Democratic-leaning cities and suburbs, making it harder to draw districts that dilute the party’s power, said Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the party’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
In North Carolina and Pennsylvania — which both have elected Democratic governors — state supreme courts have ruled that the Republican gerrymanders of the last redistricting cycle violate state constitutions, raising a barrier to future distorted maps.
And in other big states that Republicans controlled and gerrymandered a decade ago — Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio among them — either Democratic governors or nonpartisan redistricting commissions place limits on overly skewed legislative maps.
For other reasons, the delay in census totals has the potential to upend map drawing in Illinois and Ohio.
Democrats control 13 of the 18 House seats in Illinois, in part because of gerrymandering. (The state’s total number could drop to 17 after the House is reapportioned this year.) But if final maps cannot be approved by Sept. 1, the Illinois Constitution shifts mapmaking power from the Democratic-controlled Legislature to a panel of four Democrats, four Republicans and one person randomly chosen from the two parties. Giving Republicans a say in map drawing would probably increase the share of seats they are likely to win.
The same could be true in the State Senate, where Democrats now control 70 percent of the chamber’s seats, and in the State House, where they hold 60 percent of them. The Legislature is aware of the Constitution’s redistricting provision, and Democrats could try to address the issue, although how is unclear.
“Illinois is an example of where the Legislature is talking about using old data to produce maps that are largely the same as they currently have — and letting people sue,” Ms. Feng, of Common Cause, said.
The reverse applies in Ohio, where a 2018 referendum amended the State Constitution to hand congressional and state legislative map duties to a bipartisan commission. The same amendment returns redistricting duties to the Republican-dominated Legislature if the commission fails to approve political maps by Oct. 31, barely a month after the Census Bureau’s current estimate for finishing population calculations.
Some experts said legal challenges to redistricting based on the Census Bureau’s delay seemed likely, from voters or candidates who would want to extend the period for drawing maps.
“If the necessary data aren’t available at the time the law says the state redistricting must be done, then a court could relax the deadline,” said Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford law professor and co-director of the Stanford-M.I.T. Healthy Elections Project. In some states, courts granted similar pandemic-related extensions for deadlines related to balloting procedures in the November election, like voting by mail.
The rationale is that “given extraordinary circumstances, we’re doing something different this time,” Mr. Persily said.
The delay in receiving the census data could also cause the completion of map drawing to bump up against candidates’ filing deadlines in states like Virginia and New Jersey, which will hold elections for the State Legislature in November, as well as states with early 2022 filing deadlines for later primary elections.
In Virginia, officials said, the delay raises the prospect of holding state legislative elections three years in a row — using old maps this year if the new ones are not finished, using new maps in 2022 and conducting scheduled legislative elections in 2023.
“Whenever this crazy process ends, election administrators have to deal with all these lines,” said Kimball W. Brace, a Washington-based redistricting consultant who usually works with Democratic politicians. “Precincts, voter registration systems — all of that is now in a shorter timetable.”
Come Election Day, he said, “Either you’re ready, or you’re not.”Correction: Feb. 12, 2021
An earlier version of this article misstated the years in which census delays raised the prospect of Virginia holding state legislative elections three years in a row. They are 2021, 2022 and 2023, not 2022, 2023 and 2024.
Michael Wines writes about voting and other election-related issues. Since joining The Times in 1988, he has covered the Justice Department, the White House, Congress, Russia, southern Africa, China and various other topics. @miwineA version of this article appears in print on Feb. 12, 2021, Section A, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Delay in Census Data Could Affect Elections For Congress in 2022. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
2020 has been a year to remember, but let’s all make sure we get our Ballots in for the 2020 Election! We want to show appreciation for all of our volunteers and let them know how important they are to us. We also are going to go over not only the importance of filling out the Ballot, but also giving some pointers on how to fill it out and make sure your voice is heard. Oh yeah, we’re going to have some special guests as well! Let’s come together to make the change we want to see in our neighborhoods and community!
We are getting our community to represent California by participating in the Census! Making over a hundred thousand calls in 9 days alone, our partners have been talking with 15,116 voters of color – youth, first-generation immigrants, Vietnamese American and Latinx voters – living in hard-to-count areas throughout Orange County. Of the voters reached, 43% pledged to participate in the Census, while another 55% shared that they already completed the census.
Because the Coronavirus crisis prevented us from canvassing voters door-to-door, we are reaching out via mail to 26,229 voters who have no phone numbers on record and would therefore be harder to reach. Hundreds of voters are then able to get in touch with us through prepaid mail, phone hotline, text messages, or through an online form.
We are excited to share that Ahri for Justice has joined OCCET as its newest incubation partner of the table. Ahri is a new social justice organization dedicated to youth organizing, civic engagement, immigrant legal services and education, working in Asian American immigrant communities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, grounded in the values of long-term collective justice, movement wellness, grassroots organizing, and welcoming change and struggle.
Ahri for Justice will continue on to be part of OCCET’s county-wide engagement on the census outreach, community education, and civic engagement efforts, leading youth organizing in North OC and South OC with a focus in the Korean American community.
COVID-19 should not stop us from continuing to ensure democracy works for all people. Send a letter to State Legislative Leaders calling them to expand safe and simple options for voting this November.
We welcome OCCET’s new Co-Chairs Tracy La and Miguel Hernandez! Co-Chairs work with the Executive Director to provide feedback on key decisions, review budget and fundraising projections, coach and evaluate the Executive Director.