Trump is seeking to deport nearly 9,000 Vietnamese nationals who have lived in the U.S. for decades. They include children fathered by U.S. soldiers and members of families traumatized by the Vietnam War, imprisonment and dislocation.

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Shrugging off Russian efforts to undermine democracy is atrocious.

But one of the darkest, most despicable hallmarks of President Donald Trump’s term is his dogged effort to demonize, alienate and punish immigrants, including people who supported Americans fighting overseas.

A recent development on this front is the administration’s enthusiasm for deporting a subset of Vietnamese people who came to the United States before 1995.

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Trump is seeking to deport nearly 9,000 Vietnamese nationals who have lived in the U.S. for decades. They include children fathered by U.S. soldiers and members of families traumatized by the Vietnam War, imprisonment and dislocation.

Most have criminal convictions and were ordered removed by an immigration judge. Vietnam won’t take them back, so they remain here in limbo. They may continue to work and raise families while checking in regularly with immigration authorities, who may decide to lock them up for days, weeks or months.

Until there’s comprehensive immigration reform, producing a system with certainty and compassion, the administration should return to allowing these Vietnamese to remain free in the U.S. after receiving the standard punishment for their crimes. It’s unjust for the U.S. to randomly deport longtime residents to countries they’ve never known and where they may face persecution.

“They consider America their country — the country they fled doesn’t exist anymore,” said Phi Nguyen, a lawyer at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta. In February, she filed a national class-action suit challenging detention after the government began holding people longer, as a prelude for deportation, even though it can’t deport them.

As of Sept. 17, 8,634 Vietnamese nationals have these deportation orders, including 7,781 with criminal convictions, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There were 71 in ICE detention, 66 with convictions. It’s unclear how many arrived before 1995 or the nature of their convictions, adding to a state of confusion for the Vietnamese community and the country.

About 1.3 million Vietnamese immigrants live in the U.S., following waves of arrivals that began during the war. The third highest concentration is in Washington, roughly tied with Florida, because of the state’s early leadership in accepting war refugees.

“They as a group have been absolutely model citizens — a tremendous addition to Washington,” said former Gov. Dan Evans, who spearheaded the effort, while acknowledging that some also made mistakes.

It’s hard to believe Trump is in the same party as Evans, President Gerald Ford and President George W. Bush, all of whom stepped up to help Vietnamese immigrants left without a homeland. They welcomed these immigrants and won lifelong supporters among a generation of Vietnamese Americans, many of whom faced detention or worse for siding with the U.S.

Now Trump is exploiting the weakest, less sympathetic part of that population to extend his crackdown on immigration. He’s not only throwing thousands into uncertainty, he’s jeopardizing the GOP’s goodwill among immigrant populations.

Finding an answer is harder because Trump’s goal seems less about seeking solutions to complicated problems and more about provoking reactions from the far left and far right. Once the arguing starts, it’s nearly impossible to discuss ways to improve the immigration bureaucracy and find the right mix of enforcement and naturalization.

For immigrants holding green cards, this should be an encouragement to become naturalized. As citizens, they won’t be deported for committing a crime.

Policymakers must fix a system that’s creating uncertainty for productive, longtime residents and randomly depriving them of liberty. The goal should be policies that reflect America’s values, including the redemptive power of its justice system, and pride in being a nation of immigrants.

There’s also a question of honor and reputation, when dealing with refugees from countries destabilized by America’s foreign wars. How much support will the country receive next time, if it’s seen as turning its back on South Vietnamese allies and their descendants, not to mention Iraqis, Afghans and their families who supported U.S. operations only to be blocked by Trump’s discriminatory travel ban?

A welcoming and functional immigration system makes America stronger at home and abroad.

Policies that create division, fear and confusion — especially among those who stood by our side in foreign wars — do just the opposite.