This was the first federal law that substantially eased the immigration of Amerasian children born during the Vietnam War–mostly the offspring of American fathers and Vietnamese mothers. By 2009, about 25,000 Vietnamese Amerasians and 60,000 to 70,000 of their relatives had immigrated to the United States under this law.
During the long conflict in Vietnam in which the United States was involved from the early 1960’s until 1975, many American soldiers and civilian personnel working in Vietnam fathered children with Vietnamese women. Because U.S. authorities discouraged marriages between Americans and Vietnamese, only the most determined Americans managed to take their Vietnamese wives and children to the United States before American involvement in the war ended in early 1975.
At the time Vietnam was officially reunified under communist rule on July 2, 1976, it was estimated that tens of thousands of Vietnamese Amerasian children were living in the country with virtually no contact with their American fathers. The communists detested these Amerasians, whom they regarded as contemptible half-breeds, or bui doi, “children of the dust.” Their most severe contempt was for children who had
In 1982, the U.S. Congress passed the
By 2009, about 25,000 Amerasians and 60,000 to 70,000 of their relatives had immigrated to America under the Amerasian Homecoming Act. By then, however, the annual numbers had severely declined. In fiscal year 2007, for example, only 129 immigrants were admitted to the United States under the law. In June, 2009, the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City began processing applications on a special appointment basis only.
In general, the Amerasians who came to the United States with their mothers did the best in assimilating to American society. Many faced great hardships, but most proved resilient and successful. However, only 3 percent of them managed to contact their American fathers after arriving in the United States. By 2009, about 50 percent of all the immigrants who arrived under the law had become U.S. citizens.
McKelvey, Robert. The Dust of Life: America’s Children Abandoned in Vietnam. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. Nguyen, Kien. The Unwanted. Boston: Back Bay Books, 2001. Yarborough, Trin. Surviving Twice: Amerasian Children of the Vietnam War. Dulles, Va.: Potomac Books, 2005.
Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975
Nguyen v. Immigration and Naturalization Service
Orderly Departure Program