Honors Theses

Revoked Refuge: How Deported Cambodian American Refugees Negotiate the Contradictions Between Citizenship and Belonging

Author Full Name
Joshua Pe

Faculty Advisor:

Tomás R. Jiménez 

Professor, Sociology and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity

Director, Undergraduate Program on Urban Studies

Secondary Reader:

Asad L. Asad

Assistant Professor, Sociology

Faculty Affiliate, Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity 


Since 2002, the United States has deported over 1,000 Cambodian American refugees back to Cambodia, with many of these refugees being from the 1.5 generation, having arrived in the US in the 1980s as children with few memories of Cambodia. Southeast Asian American studies scholars and immigration scholars have primarily focused on 1st and 2nd generation Southeast Asian refugees’ resettlement, incorporation into the US, and remembrance of historical trauma. This project seeks to understand the experiences of the 1.5 generation who called the US home but have now been deported back to Cambodia, the country they once fled from. How does this group understand their political and social membership to the US and to Cambodia given their deportation? Between June 2021 and January 2022, I conducted 8 one-time virtual interviews, 7 with deported Cambodian American refugees and 1 with a Laotian American refugee awaiting deportation. I asked questions about growing up in the US, life in Cambodia now, and thoughts on the criminal legal and immigrant control systems. I find themes of refugees’ continued movement between countries and internally within the US, statelessness and community exclusion, and hope in the ongoing search for a refuge. These results further our understandings of how the war in Southeast Asia, US policy, and Cambodian policy continues to impact the lives of these refugees and demonstrates the divide between political-legal and social membership to the US and Cambodia.

View final Honors Thesis here.