UPDATE 2/13/20: This story has been updated to include additional informational regarding the reported Trump administration plan.
In a Jan. 28 meeting
, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith in Washington, D.C. According the State Department to two discussed efforts to strengthen the "U.S.-Laos Comprehensive Partnership by deepening political, security, economic, and people-to-people ties."
In a letter
dated Feb. 3, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota wrote to Pompeo saying in part "it has been brought to my attention that the Trump administration is negotiating with the Lao People's Democratic Republic on an agreement to allow for the deportation of long-time Hmong and Lao residents of the U.S. back to the country of their birth."
In a Feb. 5 Facebook post, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans claimed to the best of its
knowledge there was no agreement is in place between the U.S. and the Lao People's Democratic Republic on the issue of repatriation of certain Hmong and Lao Americans who are legal permanent residents.
However, the State Department confirmed Feb. 10 to a Minnesota media out that he Trump administration is in talks with the government of Laos to allow for the deportation of Lao and Hmong immigrants from the United States. The State Department is also funding a reintegration program in Laos.
A possible agreement between the two countries could affect several Hmong immigrants in Wisconsin who have committed crimes and face deportation orders.
In front of the Hmong-Laos Veterans memorial in Wausau Thursday, advocates spoke out against the reported deportation policy.
Marathon County District 5 Supervisor Ka Lo called the proposal just one of many failed U.S. immigration policies.
"Policies that rip American communities and families apart have no part in the American lexicon," said Lo. "I have a message for my community … for our community. We are going to get through this together. You will not be alone."
Thousands of Hmong and Lao people fought and died for the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Following the war, Hmong people in Laos faced persecution because they allied with the U.S.
Wisconsin is now home to 50,000 Hmong residents. Outside of Milwaukee, Marathon County is the state's highest population center with more than 5,600 residents of Hmong descent.
Thursday in Wausau, Lo and Marathon County District 1 Supervisor and Wausau mayoral candidate Katie Rosenberg said there are resources and organizations like Freedom, Inc
. that can help people who may have received deportation orders.
Wausau School Board President and Congressional candidate Tricia Zunker called the proposed plan "distressing" and said those facing deportation orders have already served their debt to society.
While the State Department has not officially announced a deportation plan, the department has confirmed the U.S. is funding a reintegration program in Laos.
Written By: Stephen Goin