PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Forty-three Cambodians arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, on Thursday after being deported from the United States under a law allowing the repatriation of immigrants who have committed felony crimes and have not become U.S. citizens.
The group is the largest to be sent to Cambodia under a 2002 bilateral agreement. More than 500 other Cambodians have already been repatriated.
The program is controversial because it breaks up families, and in some cases the returnees have never lived in Cambodia, having been the children of refugees who fled to camps in Thailand to escape the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime that ruled Cambodia in 1975-79.
Critics of the deportation policy say many of those convicted fell into crime as a result of social dislocation. The returnees are seen as having difficulty reintegrating into Cambodian society because many have spent most of their lives in the United States.
Two Cambodians ex-convicts on March 30 received pardons from California Gov. Jerry Brown, at least temporarily removing the risk they might be deported.