ATLANTA – A Vietnamese immigrant who lives in Gwinnett County is facing possible deportation after being arrested for punching a Vietnamese official during protests of a historic visit last month.
Federal authorities arrested Tuan Phuoc Le (search) and accused him of assaulting Nguyen Quoc Huy (search), vice chairman of the Vietnamese prime minister's office, outside a Washington hotel June 21.
Huy was part of a delegation led by Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai (search) — the first such visit since the end of the Vietnam War.
Le, 33, has lived in the United States since 1993 and has permanent residency. He was held by immigration authorities in Virginia after the incident but has since been released and is back in Georgia, friends said. He is living with a Vietnamese family in Lilburn.
In addition to the immigration charges, Le is scheduled to appear July 29 in U.S. District Court in Washington for a preliminary hearing on a felony assault charge.
According to the criminal complaint, Huy, who was being protected by the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, was speaking with another member of the Vietnamese delegation when Le hit him on the side of the face and knocked him down.
The complaint says Le admitted hitting Huy and said the official was a Communist who killed his father, who was a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.
Le was held on $30,000 bond for alleged immigration violations that preceded his most recent troubles. Immigration officials declined to detail the violations and Le's immigration attorney in Virginia, Parastoo G. Zahedi, said she did not know what they were.
"At this point, we have not seen anything, specifically," she said.
But Le's arrest and possible deportation have prompted outrage in the Vietnamese community in the United States.
"It's very sad, very miserable for him," said Duc Tran of Philadelphia, a spokesman for the Coalition for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Vietnam (search), one of the organizations that led protests against Prime Minister Khai's visit. "His father was American. They should not send him back."
And Tran said he fears what will happen to Le if he is deported to Vietnam.
Human Rights Watch (search) has criticized Vietnam for its human rights record and says thousands of democracy activists, members of religious groups and government critics have been jailed or harassed. The organization had urged the Bush administration to press Khai to make reforms.
Since 2000, nearly 60 Vietnamese citizens have been deported, most of them for criminal violations, said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.