By the early 1990s over 150,000 Cambodian refugees had fled their country and settled in the United States, where many struggle in poverty to rebuild their shattered lives after 25 years of war and genocide; a war the United States has direct responsibility for starting. Many young Cambodians in America fall prey, though, to the world of guns and violence their families thought they’d left behind in Cambodia.
Starting in the mid-2000s, hundreds of Cambodian refugees from the United States have been deported back to Cambodia, a country many left as infants. The law used to deport Cambodians is retroactive, some are sent back for crimes committed over a decade before. The deportees leave behind children and wives, mothers and fathers. Another 2,000 Cambodian refugees in the US wait to be sent back.
These images are a continuation of my work with Cambodian American youth that started in 1991 in Chicago. These photographs were taken from 2006 until 2008 on trips to Cambodia where I met and photographed dozens of deportees living across the country.