Cambodian refugee deported 2 years ago returns to US

BOSTON — A Cambodian refugee who says he was wrongly deported nearly two years ago was reunited with his family in Massachusetts on Wednesday, becoming the fourth such refugee — and first on the East Coast — to be allowed back into the country since the Trump administration stepped up deportations of Southeast Asians.

Thy Chea arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport after successfully petitioning to get his green card reinstated and suing the federal government to allow him to return to the country.

The 50-year-old Lowell resident was welcomed by his family and supporters, who cheered, held signs and handed him flower bouquets as they greeted him at the baggage claim.

Chea quickly scooped up his young daughter and one-year-old son, who was born after he was deported and had never met him in person.

“I am so grateful to be with my family. It’s been 18 months,” he said tearfully. “This is my kid and it’s the first time I’m holding him and meeting him.”

Chea’s lawyers argued that his criminal charges weren’t deportable offenses and that he should have been allowed to remain in the country. The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed, reopening his immigration case and restoring his lawful permanent resident status last year.

Greater Boston Legal Services, which is representing Chea, then sued the federal government in December, saying immigration officials were still “unlawfully” refusing to facilitate Chea’s return.

“It’s been a long fight to get Thy back,” said Bethany Li, his lawyer. “We really hope this is the start of a lot more people coming back to our communities.” Read more from Boston 7 News.