MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Fear brewing in Wisconsin's Hmong community after a push from the Trump administration to begin deporting thousands of Hmong residents to Laos.
This would affect non-naturalized Hmong immigrants who are under removal orders in the United States. A local Hmong community leader says families are worried.
Peng Her is the CEO of the Hmong Institute in Madison. He says the Hmong community plays an important role in U.S. history. "The Hmong fought with the United States against Communism in Laos," she says.
Her says the Hmong consider themselves veterans of the U.S. “Because of that when Laos fell into communist hands we were no long safe to live in Laos," said Her.
Many came to the U.S. for safety to raise their families. The Hmong have been in the U.S. for more than 40 years. According to Census data, Wisconsin has a Hmong population of about 50,000. Most in the Milwaukee area but thousands live in Dane County.
"There’s a real concern in the Hmong community about deportation discussion that Trump is having with the Laotian government,” said Her. A Minnesota congresswoman brought attention to the issue in a February 3rd letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Her says many in the Hmong community have never been to Laos. “So what happens to them? How are they supported? They don’t speak the language, they don’t know the culture, and they might not have family members there," he said.
The State Department has since confirmed that the current administration is negotiating with Laos to allow for the deportation of Hmong residents.
Her says the Hmong community wants to work with elected officials to get answers in regards to who gets deported and what the criteria is. “A recent study shows that since 1998. 227 Hmong got deported back to Laos. Of that 192 were not convicted of any crime," said Her.