Last month Lundy Khoy wrote a New York Times op-ed directed at Donald Trump
after the President-elect suggested during his campaign that he would implement a deportation force
that will specifically target those with criminal records. It's a prospect, she wrote, that makes her "afraid."
In a new interview with CNN's Carol Costello, Khoy, the daughter of Cambodian refugees, described how she came to the US when she was a year old and was given a green card. But in 2000, as a naïve 19-year-old freshman at George Mason University, her then-boyfriend gave her some Ecstasy pills.
"I didn't have a lot of freedom in high school so I made some really poor choices my first year of college because I wanted to fit in," she said
"I was introduced to Ecstasy, and, at the time, didn't know that it was an illegal substance. I honestly told the cops when they approached me about drugs. I shared it with them that I did have these pills and (later) learned that they were illegal and I could be sentenced to ten years," she said.
Khoy, now 36, served three months in jail and was given four years of probation. But that turned out to be only the beginning of what she calls her "nightmare."
After prison, she worked full time and got good grades. Then, three years after her conviction, a then-23-year-old Khoy attended what she thought was a regular probation meeting. It turned out to be anything but.
"When I went into my probation meeting, it turned that it was immigration officers. And they immediately arrested me and said that I am going to be detained and I'm going to court and I will be most likely deported to Cambodia because of my conviction when I was 19 years old," she said.
It's all because she is classified as a legal resident, not a US citizen.
Ever since, Khoy, a mother of a young son, has been fighting the system.
"Right now I have a final order of deportation. My lawyer and I discussed it. What we can do is get the federal government to agree to reopen my case and complete a cancellation of deportation so I can remain here with my family," she said. "Or the President can give me a pardon, so that's another option. But there's just so much uncertainty."
Khoy told Costello that the idea that she would have to make a new life in Cambodia, a country where she has never been, seemed absurd.
"I'm not a drug dealer, not a gang member. I'm just an ordinary person that just wants to stay home where I feel like I belong," she said.
Asked by Costello what she would say to those who believe the law must be obeyed despite the circumstances of her case, Khoy made a plea for a "humane" solution.
"The immigration laws are very strict and rigid. I have been punished for my crime already," she said.
"I feel that sending me to a country that I have never been to, where I don't know anybody, I'm not really familiar with the country at all ... it's a life sentence."