The Released Re-education Detainee Program provided a pathway for Vietnamese who had been sent to reeducation camps by the communist government of Vietnam after the fall of the South Vietnamese government in 1975 to emigrate to the United States with their families.
After the fall of the South Vietnamese government in 1975, thousands of Vietnamese fled the country to escape possible reprisals from the new communist government. Many of these people died at sea while trying to flee in small boats, and in poorly supported refugee camps in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, many of those unable to leave Vietnam were interned by the national government in “reeducation” camps, which were actually prison camps aimed at punishing those who had worked for the South Vietnamese government or U.S. forces and indoctrinating them in communist ideology.
By 1979, the United Nations persuaded the new national government of Vietnam to participate in what became known as the
Feeling a special obligation to certain groups of Vietnamese, during the 1980’s the U.S. government developed programs to encourage immigration of Vietnamese children of American servicemen, families of those children, and former employees of the South Vietnamese and U.S. government and their families. In 1984, U.S. secretary of state
Members of a family of Vietnamese refugees who fled Vietnam in 1989. As stateless refugees, they had to spend many years in a Philippines refugee camp before they reached the United States, where they finally achieved legal immigrant status in 2005. Here, the father holds the document certifying their legal immigrant status.
The Released Re-education Detainee Program quickly became known as Humanitarian Operation. Frequently this term was used to designate the efforts to resettle former internees as well as those designed to assist children of American servicemen. Both initiatives were particularly successful. Through the five years following passage of the law, the number of individuals in these categories taking advantage of the program increased steadily.
By 1994, when the program expired, more than 70,000 former internees and their families, as well as thousands of Amerasian children and their families, had resettled in the United States. It is estimated that more than 160,000 people entered the United States under the provisions of these programs. Ten years later, the U.S. government began negotiations to resurrect Humanitarian Operation initiatives to assist Vietnamese who had been eligible for these programs but had not been able to take advantage of them. Leading this new initiative was U.S. senator
Chan, Sucheng, ed. The Vietnamese American 1.5 Generation: Stories of War, Revolution, Flight, and New Beginnings. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006. Do, Hien Duc. The Vietnamese Americans. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Nguyen, Kien. The Unwanted. Boston: Back Bay Books, 2001. Zhou, Min, and Carl L. Bankston III. Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998.
History of immigration after 1891