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Former Courier-Journal Reporter Profiles Plight Of Cambodian Immigrants In New Book

Katya Cengel

Stories of the deportation of immigrants who have recently entered the country have been all over the news. But there are also deportation cases involving some immigrants who have been in the country for decades.

Former Courier-Journal reporter Katya Cengel examines a few of those cases with her new book, “Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back.”

You can listen to our conversation on the media player above.

One of the people Cengel profiles is San Tran Croucher, who fled the killing fields of Cambodia’s ruling Khmer Rouge and ended up in southern California. Her daughter Sithy had a rough transition to life in America.

"San remembers this one story she tells, a policeman coming to her house at night and talking to her and she doesn't understand what he's saying because her English isn't good enough yet — now she speaks English very well — so she told him to write it down," Cengel said. "And [San] took that note the next morning to her work and asked them 'What does this say?' It said, 'Your daughter Sithy tried to jump off a bridge last night to kill herself. She's being held at this mental hospital.'"

Cengel said Sithy's problems continued, eventually leading to prison.

"Sithy, and I've seen this with several women, got into very abusive relationships, was abused by boyfriends a lot. And when I spoke with her, she said she was used to being beat up by the Khmer Rouge," Cengel said. "They're the things you're used to and she was very good at surviving under the Khmer Rouge and she did not adapt as well in the U.S. So she ended up being convicted of a drug crime and served about a year or so. So she served time for her crime and once she was let out she's subject to deportation as a legal permanent resident with a felony."

Cengel will be signing copies of the book Saturday morning from 9:00-11:00 at Carmichael's on Frankfort Avenue.

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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