Community Demands ICE Immediately Release Hieu Huynh, a Vietnamese Refugee,
and All Immigrants and Refugees Detained at Essex County
Newark, New Jersey — On Monday, December 21st, community members and community organizers will gather to demand the immediate release of Hieu Huynh and the 400 other immigrants and refugees
detained at Essex County Correctional Facility. Hieu, a 49 year old refugee from Vietnam, has been
detained by ICE and separated from his family – including his ill, elderly father – since May,
based on a conviction from over thirty years ago that he’s already served time for.
Over 1,200 people have signed the #BringHieuHome petition, and hundreds more have called elected
officials, demanding that Hieu be released immediately. ICE however continues to detain Hieu, well
past the 180 day period that constitutes indefinite detention. Last month, on November 20th, Hieu
had his custody interview with ICE; this interview lasted no longer than 10 minutes, and he was
asked basic demographic information. It’s been over one month, and we have yet to hear from ICE
about its decision to release or continue detaining Hieu.
On December 21st, community members and community organizers will convene in Newark, New Jersey to deliver the over 1,200 petition signatures to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; Congressmember Cory Booker; Congressmember Robert Menendez; Congressmember Donald Payne; and Brendan W. Gill, President of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. This petition delivery will culminate in a rally outside the Newark ICE Field Office at 12:30pm. Family members and community members will be joined by the Abolish ICE NY/NJ Coalition who will all gather around a Southeast Asian altar to honor those who have died in ICE Custody.
For Hieu and his family, Hieu’s detention is part of an on-going cycle of violence, displacement,
and family separation that the Southeast Asian community knows all too well. Like many other
Southeast Asian refugees, Hieu and his family fled Vietnam in the midst of US military
interventions in the country and region more broadly. After arriving in the US at the age of nine
in 1980, Hieu and his family settled in New Jersey, where they confronted poverty, isolation, criminalization, and rebuilding a new life in a foreign country. Hieu’s detention stems from a conviction from when he was 18, which he has already served his time for. Despite the fact that Hieu has been released for two decades and he has rebuilt his life during this time, he now faces the risk of losing
everything because of his detention and imminent deportation.
What’s more, Hieu has been in ICE detention at Essex County since the height of the Covid-19
pandemic. In detention centers across New Jersey, detained persons have gone on hunger strikes
protesting their detention and the danger detention poses to their health at large. As one of the
largest detention centers in the country, Essex County was one of the first detention centers to
report positive Covid-19 cases. While rates of Covid-19 within Essex County have continued to
skyrocket, the on-going detention of immigrants and refugees poses a massive threat to their health
The detention of Hieu and all immigrants and refugees at Essex County is fundamentally violent,
racist, and unjust. We demand that they be released now, so they can be restored to and reunited
with their families and communities.
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About Mekong NYC: Mekong NYC aims to improve the quality of life of the Southeast Asian community
in the Bronx and throughout New York City by achieving equity through community organizing and
healing, promoting arts, culture, and language, and creating a safety net by improving access to
essential social services. The Southeast Asian community in the Bronx primarily consists of
Cambodian Americans and Vietnamese Americans. Mekong NYC is where history and culture are valued
and learned, where history and culture are living, where people’s needs are met, where people are
united through struggle, and where the people feel liberated. For more information, please visit
About Southeast Asian Defense Project: the Southeast Asian Defense Project aims to end the
deportation of Southeast Asian refugees and immigrants. The Southeast Asian Defense Project works
to end Southeast Asian deportations through a series of multi-pronged strategies that includes
policy advocacy, legal support, and community organizing and education. For more information,
please visit www.seadefense.org.
About VietLead: VietLead is a grassroots, Vietnamese community-based organization in Philadelphia
and South Jersey. We focus on intergenerational healing through leadership development, civic
engagement, culture & arts, and health promotion work. VietLead was founded by Vietnamese
organizers who had a vision for sustainability, self-determination, and “taking on” on the work of
building the community we want. Our vision is to integrate transformative programming that
organizes and mobilizes our community towards collective self determination of the Vietnamese
community in solidarity with communities of color. For more information, please