Reed Smith and co-counsel, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (AAAJ), have achieved a major victory on behalf of all Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the United States prior to 1995 and have deportation orders, resolving a high-profile class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency that has been pending since 2018.

Up until 2017, the United States and Vietnam had upheld a diplomatic agreement forged in 2008 stating that “Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam under this agreement if they arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995.” Between 2008 and 2017, ICE did not generally seek to deport Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the United States prior to 1995, even if those immigrants had been ordered deported based on criminal records.

As a result of the 2008 agreement, pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants were not subject to removal. However, in 2017, under the former Trump administration, the United States began detaining pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants with deportation orders. As a consequence, Vietnamese immigrants who had lived in the United States for nearly three decades or more were cruelly detained for long periods – for over a year in some cases.

In response, Reed Smith and AAAJ sued ICE and other agencies on behalf of seven detained immigrants in the form of a class action. After the plaintiffs defeated a motion to dismiss in September 2018, ICE largely ceased its unlawful practice of subjecting pre-1995 Vietnamese immigrants to indefinite detention. In October 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted class certification of this historic lawsuit, including a Prolonged Detention Class that consists of all Vietnamese nationals who (1) arrived in the United States before July 12, 1995, (2) are subject to final orders of removal, and (3) have been, or risk being, detained by ICE for more than 180 days without a bond hearing.