|Đại Gia Đình Buôn Người Và Kinh Doanh Thân Xác, Trinh Tiết Phụ Nữ, Thiếu Nữ và Trẻ Em Việt Nam Tại Cambodia bao gồm: NGUYỄN PHÙNG PHONG, PHAN THỊ BÉ, NGUYỄN PHÚ CƯỜNG, NGUYỄN MINH CẢNH, NGUYỄN ANH TUẤN Và LÊ HUY TÂM|
GARDEN GROVE – She clings to the power of prayer when hope is gone.
At any moment of the day, Lien Dinh kneels, sinking deeply into the devotions she has known since she was a child. She asks for strength and protection as the head of the family since her husband's arrest.
That arrest occurred in August when immigration officials nabbed Thi Dinh Bui as part of a crackdown on foreign nationals living in the United States who are suspected of human-rights abuses overseas. Authorities accuse him of torturing fellow prisoners - and killing two of them - in a re-education camp after Saigon fell to the communists in 1975.
The Garden Grove man came to California in 1994 under a U.S. State Department program that allowed former political prisoners to immigrate. Bui settled near Little Saigon, and though he and his wife rarely ventured there, the community - filled with thousands of men and women like him, jailed at the end of the Vietnam War without formal charges or trials - is paying close attention to his case.
Bui's trial on charges of violating U.S. immigration laws began last month and resumes today. The United States and Vietnam have no extradition agreement, so Bui's fate is unclear if he's convicted of the immigration charges.
But his wife worries that she and her family could be deported. So she prays before breakfast, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch and so on at a simple altar graced with images of Jesus.
In her first interview since her husband's arrest, Dinh was at times distraught, at times determined. Sitting near a picture of "The Last Supper," she talked openly about her hopes for her family's future - of the dreams she nurtured in Vietnam that were shattered, rebuilt and now shattered again.
When Bui brought his wife to America, seven of their kids accompanied them. Two remain in Vietnam.
"When I thought about life in this country, I thought of the chance to live freely without communism. We didn't look for anything grand, just the ability to exist day to day," Dinh said quietly, recounting loneliness and starvation while her husband toiled in jail.
"All I want is peace, not war," she said. "Never war."
Thi Dinh Bui initially found work as a tailor and from 1996 to this past August delivered newspapers as an independent contractor for The Orange County Register. His wife earned a small income ironing at a knitwear company. Here, in their apartment with sagging twin mattresses, Dinh worships with her youngest daughter, Tiffany.
"The Lord is where you find peace," she says. "I find reason for our burdens."
What Bui earned, he used to pay rent and send donations to Vietnam for orphanages and the needy.
"We felt so good being able to help others. We want to keep doing that," Dinh said. "We thought we were stable until this situation started all over again."
The situation she refers to involves former inmates from Thanh Cam camp verbally attacking Bui after the release of a memoir written by Le Huu Nguyen, a Catholic priest who remembers Thi Dinh Bui beating and hurting him during their years behind bars.
Nguyen is among the government's key witnesses in the trial, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which plans to call at least five other ex-inmates to testify.
Bui, 62, had worked as a "trat tu vien," or disciplinary enforcer, at the prison. He maintains his innocence and is being detained on Terminal Island while his wife waits at home for his calls.
"No one can help me - not my family, my relatives or my friends," Dinh said. "Food is no comfort. Neither is sleep. I just pray."
Dinh now fears strangers knocking on her door. When INS agents picked up her husband, they arrived right before dinner. Bui was wearing shorts when authorities led him away. Daughter Tiffany, a college student, ran after them, pleading: "Please let me go with my father. Please. He doesn't speak English. He won't know what to do."
Officials told her to return home, and once inside, mother and daughter collapsed, later turning to benedictions. Bui's 3-year-old granddaughter sobbed and cried, "Grandpa, grandpa," and asked what had happened to him.
Dinh got a telephone number for a public defender, but unable to understand the public defender, she asked her children for help. They have little money, but the older ones, spread out in Chicago, New York and Orange County, pooled some savings to hire a lawyer.
Nguyen, the priest, had visited her family years before her husband's arrest, proclaiming his forgiveness.
"I do not know what happened in jail, but when he was here, he gave us his blessing," Dinh recalls. "Father Le told us this was over."
She believes now that only God knows the truth.