K.K.'s life was upended by a U.S. law that authorized deportations of noncitizens with any criminal conviction, from murder to shoplifting. Although he was born in a Thai refugee camp, never visited Cambodia and lived in the United States since he was 4, neither K.K. nor his illiterate parents formally applied for citizenship after he turned 18.We should deport more people like him.
But K.K. reckons the deportation pulled him out of a life that probably would have led him back to prison, or possibly to his death by now. "Doper, may he rest in peace, Doper passed away," he said of one former gang member.
When K.K. landed, shellshocked, in Phnom Penh and looked around at the impoverished, war-torn country, the last thing he envisioned was a return to break dancing, which he hadn't done since he was 13. But after another deportee who knew of his reputation spread the word of his skills, street urchins badgered him until he finally agreed to give lessons in his living room.
"There were 40 kids in the room every night," said Michael Otto, K.K.'s best man at his wedding to a Cambodian woman. "It was like a sauna."
Working with youngsters left little room for self-pity. Sure, he'd had it tough. But at least the United States had public schools and welfare departments, both sorely lacking here.
"I realized I needed to help out," he said.
Friday, June 11, 2010
The feel-good side of deporting non-citizen criminals
From the Los Angeles Times: