On U.S. Immigration, Laos Calls the Shots

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

September 22, 2016

When tiny Laos can bully the United States on an immigration matter, the nation has hit an enforcement rock bottom.

According to the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, Laos has a population of 6.9 million, $34.4 billion GDP, and a $5,000 per capita income. Communist Laos, where 75 percent of the workforce is employed in sustenance farming, is, according to the index, systematically corrupt and chronically in debt.

At the other end of the scale, the EF index shows the U.S. with a population of 319 million (as of 9/10, 324 million, an indication of how fast the nation’s population is growing), a $17.4 trillion GDP, a $54,600 per capita income, and ranks as the world’s largest oil and gas producer.

Wattay International Airport: Next stop for rapist Thong Vang?

But on immigration law between the two countries, make no mistake: Laos tells the U.S. how things are going to be. Laos refuses to accept back its criminal aliens. After he completed a 16-year rape sentence, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted him for deportation, Thong Vang was eventually freed when Laos rejected ICE’s request. Vang was released in 2014 and shot two California corrections officers this month. Officers Juanita Davila and Toamalama Scanlan survived but are in critical condition. Scanlan is a father of six, ten-year law enforcement veteran, and Davila, a mother and grandmother who has been employed at the Fresno County jail for 18 years.

KFSN-TV Fresno painted Vang’s chilling criminal history. In 1998, Vang appeared in court on charges of the abduction, forced confinement and rape of three girls who were between the ages of 12 and 14. The girls were taken to a local Motel 6 and held for two days, and forced to have sex with multiple men and boys. The New York Times has more grisly details here.

Vang, then 22, was a member of a Hmong gang known as the Mongolian Boys Society. Vang and his fellow gang members were convicted of violent forcible rape and sent to prison. Other Mongolian Boys were subsequently arrested for abduction, rape and forced prostitution of teenage California girls. The girls and their families left Fresno after Vang’s gang associates made multiple threats on their lives.

But Vang caught a break when a 2014 Supreme Court ruling, Zadvydas v. Davis, ordered that aliens cannot be held indefinitely when their home countries will not repatriate them. Dissenting justices noted that when countries refuse to repatriate their own nationals, it forces “dangerous aliens,” as the justices identified them, into the communities and allows foreign countries to dictate U.S. immigration law. Vang’s recent shooting victims, though, were unlucky.

That child rapists are released and not deported is not only an indefensible outrage but a violation of a federal law that requires the State Department to impose visa sanctions on uncooperative countries, in this case Laos. Instead, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored the law. During the last five years, the State Department has issued 11,000 visas to Laotians.

But I wonder if there isn’t another and possibly more effective solution. The U.S. Air Force has more than 350 planes in its fleet. Put Vang on one bound from Fresno to the Wattay International Airport which serves Vientiane, Laos’ capital. Drop Vang off which forces his repatriation. Then, let the Obama administration and his former Secretary of State explain why the U.S. should keep a convicted child rapist and violent felon on its streets.

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