Route 95, Maine, USA. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Route 95, Maine, USA. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

A Vietnamese man who arrived in the United States with his family to seek asylum in 1987, is facing drug charges that have been delayed for 13 years while he served a prison sentence for murder.

In 2005, after Son Thanh Nguyen, then 37, was seen driving unusually slowly on Route 95 in Newbury, Massachusetts, state trooper Josh Ulrich suspected Nguyen was unwell and pulled him over. A crack pipe and more than one ounce of crack cocaine were found in the vehicle’s center console, Salem News reported.

However, before Nguyen could be tried on the drug charges, he was sentenced to 15 years for having murdered a man in Maine a month before being pulled over in Massachusetts. Along with two accomplices, Nguyen shot the man to death in a Maine forest on September 6, 2005, after what was thought to be a dispute involving drug money.

In August this year, Nguyen made parole and was delivered to Massachusetts to face trial on the drug charges.

Nguyen’s lawyer requested that his client be released on US$500 bail while the case was ongoing. However, the prosecutor argued that bail should be denied as the defendant may avoid trial by being picked up by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under a deportation order issued in 2010.

The judge refused bail because of the possibility of Nguyen being deported.

Vietnam and the US came to an agreement in 2008 that Vietnam was not required to accept the return of deported Vietnamese who left the southeast Asian nation before 1995.

However, the Trump administration has been holding immigrants in custody for months to pressure Vietnam into accepting them as deportees. One group of immigrants under threat of deportation has filed a lawsuit against the government.