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tv   Lectures in History Post- Vietnam War Refugees  CSPAN  September 8, 2020 10:34am-11:47am EDT

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reagan encouraged him, reagan encouraged him. >> freedom of the press i should mention madison originally called it freedom of the use of the press, and it is indeed freedom to print things and publish things. it's not a freedom which we now refer to institutionally as the press. >> lectures in history on c-span 3 every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. lectures in history is also available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. >> up next on lectures in history a class about southeast asian migration to the united states and examines how the laws and public opinions on refugees have changed over the last five decades. her class lasts about an hour. >> today we're going to talk about topic 18 which is a southeast asian refugee migrations.
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if you have been following the news in recent years i imagine that you like me have found it difficult to ignore the topic of refugees. this is an image of a jerefugee experience in communist vietnam in 1975, but in many ways it reminds us of images that we might see on the news today. it's hard to ignore the human stories of families perishing at ice-t, refugees suffocating in meat trucks. they're crowding onto leaking boats, they're drowning the bodies of those unable to cross to safety are washing up. and refugees have been in the news for the past few years particularly related to the crisis in syria, but refugees
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are being up rooted by conflict all around the world. we're not just talking about refugees coming from syria but from other war torn regions. especially in the past couple of years it has been very difficult to ignore the public response to refugees. and refugee resettlements like so many other topics today has become a polarizing topic. on one hand opposition has been fierce. politicians at the local, state and federal level have linked refugees to terrorism and have pursued anti-refugee policies in the name of national security. the most famous of these measures is president donald trump's executive orders which grounded the federal refugee program virtually to a halt in january 2017.
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his imposition of what is widely known as the refugee ban shortly after taking office initiated one of the biggest debates of his presidency. to be sure politicians are not the only ones who have taken action on the issue of refugees. there have also been instances of vigilante anti-refugee activism, some of it potentially violent, and much of it centered specifically on muslim refugees. for example, in shelbiville and in tennessee there were rallies led by white nationalists and neo-nazis. but it's also hard to ignore the fact that there has been a tremendous amount of public support for refugees. the january 2017 executive orders prompted thousands of
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american protests and facilitated legal aid at airports across the country. community groups organized rallies and service projects to raise awareness of the issue of refugees. people put signs declaring their support for refugees on their front lawns or above their church entryways or even on stickers on their laptop. now, i'm a historian and my job is to remind you we need to have some historical perspective. the truth is that in many ways we have been here before. i've already pointed to this image of a boat. this is an image from 1975, but it could very well be an image of people fleeing by boat today. we've seen these images before. we've seen a vicious eruption of anti-refugee sentiment before. we've seen a generous
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pro-refugee response before. we've seen anxiety about religious and cultural difference before. we've worried about refugees and national security before. now i am frustrated a little bit by our contemporary conversation because so much of our conversation is not paying attention to history and lessons we can learn from the past. you especially don't hear enough about asian refugees. we might hear more about jewish refugees but not that much about asian refugees. now, i've made the case this entire semester that asian-american history is american history. so today i'm going to talk about asian refugee migrations that took place and this i argue changed the course of refugee history in the united states for
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decades to come. i'm going to talk about refugees known as ugandan-asian refugees and southeast asian refugees. they arrived in the 1970s and 1980s some of them as late as the beginning of the 20th century and the migration of these asian refugees was a turning point in several different ways. number one, in the 1970s refugees were accepted for ordinary reasons. for the fist time the united states wasn't just accepting refugees because they opposed communism, the united states was accepting refugees on the basis of emerging humanitarian commitments to human rights. number two, during this period refugees were accepted and resultled in a new way. we're talking about a huge refugee migration here. over a million southeast asian
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refugees came to the united states in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, and that refugee migration and the amount of work it took to coordinate relief and resettlement efforts both overseas and domestically made government officials realize they needed to have a more systematic and organized and permanent way to respond to refugee crises. it's in part because of southeast asian refugees in particular we see the emergence for a push for new legislation which culminated in the refugee act. this act is still enforced today. i'll talk about the details of that act later. number three, another reason why southeast asian refugee migrations and also ugandan-asian refugee migrations matter, these asian refugees were at the beginning of a new wave of refugees. a new refugee population.
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they were the first group of non-white, non-european, non-christian refugees to be resettled in the united states. there had been cuban refugees and jewish refugees. i'll talk about that later, but this was the first huge group of non-white, non-european, non-christian refugees. and these refugees were so different that it was a source of great anxiety for americans. in truth these refugees ended up be the forerunner population so these refugees in many ways set the groundwork for how the united states would resettle refugees. but also were a har binger what would come.
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southeast asian refugees in particular and it would change its approach to refugees in the decades to come. you'll know we have been talking about asian refugees. in fact, the history of vietnamese refugees has received a lot of attention in the past couple of years because of this book, the sympathizer which won the pulitzer prize in 2016. and you are reading an excerpt from this novel this week, and we'll discuss it next week. he himself was a refugee, and he's reflected a lot about what it means to be a refugee and a writer and to tell his story. in an essay he published in "the new york times" he observed the
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following. people have characterized my novel the sympathizer as an immigrant story and me as an immigrant. no, my novel is a war story and i am not an immigrant. i am a refugee who like many others has never ceased being a refugee in some corners of my mind. he continues, immigrants are more reassuring than refugees because there is an end point to their story. however they arrived, whether they're documented or not their desires for a new life can be absorbed into the american dream or into the european narrative of civilization. by contrast refugees are zombies of the world, the undead who rise from dying states to march or swim toward our borders in endless waves.
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so let's stop and think about this line a little. what do you think he means by saying immigrants are different from refugees? >> that it isn't a choice immigrants take to build their own new future whereas like with the refugee crisis we see now there's often like a push that forces them to leave their own countries and migrate somewhere else just because of like a failure of government or reasons they don't have control over themselves. >> absolutely. so there is a forced migration that characterizes refugee migration rather than immigrants who as you point out have more of a choice. >> i also think with refugees there's a connotation when their home country, when the turmoil stops in their home country for
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a refugee the reason we would welcome them in is because we're housing them until they go back. >> so the ability to be able to return to your home country and we'll talk about how a lot of immigrants migrate to the united states or elsewhere and return home, but refugees don't have that option because they have been forced out due to war, persecution, natural disaster, any number of reasons that make their life in their previous country impossible. they would not survive. refugee migrations is characterized by aiming for survival. what do you think he means when he says refugees are zombies of the world? i thought that was evocative,
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zombies of the world. the undead who rise in dying states. >> in a way like they are the only vessels of culture left of these dying states, and it's really hard to get someone to, you know, completely forfeit their culture because it is part of their identity. so as long as they live the culture lives. >> yes, okay. so i think this is really powerful. they are often vessels of their culture. they're leaving desperate situations where they would have otherwise died physically and perhaps also their community would have died, their culture would have died. and so this idea of people levering dying states in circumstances is really powerful. i think that language of zombies
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is really powerful it reminds us of desperation, the violence, the fear that people lead that pushes people to migrate. i think it's important for us to remember that this violence, that this suffering, that this persecution, that this upheaval that forced them to migrate doesn't just end there but continues to shape their lives in years to come. he called attention to w of the most important aspects to refugees and what distinguishes them from immigrants. number one, they are forcibly removed from their homes due to political conflict, natural disaster or other extraordinary circumstances, and they're often
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very traumatized people. zombies as he would say. interesting thing about refugees is they are powerful in our mythology of american exceptionalest american history. think about the poem, the new colossus. in it she describes the statue of liberty as the mother of exiles who says give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teaming shore. send these the tempest to me i lift my loft beside the golden door. how many of you have heard those lines before? and the fact those lineerize on the statue of liberty which is a symbol of immigration in the united states is really powerful.
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it really centers the idea of the united states as being a welcoming haven for people who are exiles. unfortunately, the history of the united states tells a somewhat different more complicated story. the truth is we haven't always had humanitarian impulse to welcome refugees. usually we've only done so when it's in our humanitarian national interest. usually we've been more inclined to actually reject refugees than to accept them. to borrow the words of histor historian eric tang are also deeply unsettled by the experience of force the migrati migration. to give you an overview of what
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i'll faulk about today, i'll give you background of resettlement policy after the second world war, and use that back front to set up -- that's when a small group of ugandan asian refugees arrived in the united states, followed by an even larger group of refugees, southeast asian refugees. i'll talk about the crisis that developed overseas, but i'll focus mostly on developments that took place here in the united states, how the general public viewed southeast asian refugees, how southeast asian refugees were admitted and resettled, and how southeast asian refugees themselves tell stories about their experience. i'll tease out why the history
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of resettlement matters and i'll conclude with some discussion about how southeast asian americans today are drawing on their refugee history to intervene in contemporary public policy debates. any questions so far? so let's begin with background about refugees resettlement in the united states during the 20th century. during the 1940s, '50s and '60s were european mostly white, jewish or christian. during this period, right after the second world war and during the cold war, a commitment to opposing communism shaped how the united states determined which leave gerefugees to accep.
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after world war ii, the united states changed the immigration policies to accept peoples displaced by war. they were known as displaced persons. they benefited from the landmark legislation of the time, which was the 1948 displaced persons act. that act eventually expired and in 1953 it was replaced by the refugee relief act, which helped other european refugees including italians, greeks and dutch refugees. in 1956, we see cold war developments in europe also shape a new refugee populations and give rise to new groups of people seeking refuge, in particular the hungarian revolution occurred and freedom fighters as they were popularly known, we are welcomed to the united states. they were accepted under what is called parole power, which
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allowed the united states to accept refugees and circumvent its own immigration laws, which at this time, if you recall, were pretty restrictive. throughout much of the cold war, the executive branch used a loophole in immigration law, the parole power, to admit refugees whether it deemed when it was in the national interest to do so. for the first time because of cuba's proximity to the united states, the united states was a country of first refuse, mean and then applied for
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resettlement in the united states. especially to places like miami. a number of remembers, and these requirements illustrated how the united states pursued its on cold warse self-interest. the u.s. offered a special welcome to people fleeing communism. second, the preference was given for refugees who are professionals or highly educated, skilled, keeping in of in with other immigration laws of the period. and while they humanitarian
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efforts were often centered on the needs of the united states. they images feature refugees who appeared during this per. on the left is displaced persons registers at ft. on on tear i don't center. >> and the one on the right is a cover of "time," featuring their chosen person of the year in 1956. the person of the year in 1956 was the hungarian freedom fighter. so let's think about this. what do you think this image on the right tells us about how americans viewed hungarian freedom fighters during this time. think about what it means for
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"time" to choose hungarian freedom fighters as their person of the year, and to present them in this way. up what does this magazine cover tell us about how americans viewed hungarian refugees? >> definitely in a positive light. >> yeah. >> not -- a lot different from how we view syrian refugees today. >> yes, really positive. you can see his face, so bold, so serious, noble. there was enormous enthusiasm for welcoming people who were seen as fighting for freedom, who were seen as being allies in the united states' war against communism. so i think that's a really important image to have in mind,
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how refugees can be celebrated and how the celebration of refugees converges powerfully with american up interests, in particular this moment, the cold war lives in the 20th century, it is cold war continued to shape the united states' stance toward refugee populations, but the last quarter of the 20th century saw a major shift in the world's refugee population. in 1964, a refugee affairs expert at the world council of churches declared -- we are now faced with a problem of refugees who are, by and large, nonwhite and by and large, nonchristian. it remains to be seen how we will react. americans were worried about how the united states would handle
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these new refugees. one pastor in st. paul, minnesota explained many problems will arise because of the new influx of people to america, as a result of new people coming from different cultures and backgrounds. how will they news immigrants be accepted, he asked. government leaders also worried about this new immigrant population, new refugee population in particular. during a congressional hearing shortly after the fall of saigon, julia taft, who was of the interagency task force on indochina refugees declared -- never before in the history of this country, mr. chairman, has so many people from such different culture, ethnic and religious backgrounds been introduced into american society in such a solar time. but what said his refugees apart from previous populations is not
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that national racially, ethnically, religiously different, but that these communities didn't necessarily have a community of people in the united states already to welcome them. s amid the debate, there's been little attention paid to the fact that the united states has been resettling refugees who are muslim for a long time. in fact, has been since the 1970s. the first muslim refugees accepted for resettlement were ugandan asian refugees, asian origin people who had been expelled from uganda by i hdi amin. on these ugandan asian refugees marked a turning point in that
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they were quite different from the predecessors. this were religiously diverse, and also hirschus, sikh, and christian. so one big question worth asking -- how did it go? a ugandan asian refugees, who was later a history professor actually wrote a report called the brown diaspora. and he noted some problems did arise. for example, a strictly vegetarian brahmen was given work in a paulry processing plant, which did not go so well. he pointed out that it produced significant psychological and emotional strain, and though he praised the good intentions of the sponsors and the voluntary
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agencies, he said that there needed to be a better understanding of the needs of refugees. overall, though, he said that ugandan asian refugees had a pretty positive experience. i mention ugandan asian refugees, because they really set the stage for a larger refugee population that arrived. informed house they groups handled southeast asian refugees. shortly after the arrival of ugandan asian refugees, another larger refugee population arrived as a result of war in southeast asia. to give you some context about what's happening in southeast asia at the time. in 19 5, communist governments took control in vietnam,
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cambodia and laos. this initiated the out migration of thousands of people fleeing for their lives. the american public tended to see they refugees as a single group, frequently referred to as the indochinese. that category had a lot of important differences within the population. these were several different ethnic group coming from different countries, speaking different languages, different religions, different class background, different or political orient acheses and more. what united them was the experience of war, the trauma of war, the force the migration produced by war. and the experience of having to create a new life in the united states after experiencing the war. these refugees arrived in
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several waves the phish began in 1965, lasted a decade. by 1971, the war had already caused political, cultural damage. it replaced approximately 6 million refugees in south vietnam, and several hundred thousands refugees in laos. later, in the fall of saigon, in the spring of 1975, the withdrawal of american military forces caused another outpouring of refugees. in response to this immediate crisis, president gerald ford allowed to parole in evacuees. some were evacuated by the help of military forces, others were taken into protective custody by the united states. these vietnamese refugees in
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1975 were placed in several military-run refugee camps on military bases here in the united states. they stayed there until sponsors could assist their resubtlement elsewhere. now, as 1976 began, americans thought they were done with the refugee crisis. they had handled those couple hundred thousands refugees who went to the military-run refugee camps, but the crisis was only beginning to heat up at there point. violence and political conflict continued to escalate, and continued to spur new refugee my graze. for example, in cambodia, the vietnamese invasion of 1978 brought the downfall of the khmer rouge and the remove of pol pot. during pol pot's three years of power, the khmer rouge killed
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about 21% of the cambodian population. with pol pot no longer in power, approximately half a million cambodian people who managed to survive his regime sought refuge in nearby thailand. in addition, more joined them in thailand between 1980 and 1986. in vietnam there was another outpouring known famously as the boat people. they escaped by sea. they were people who had been formerly been military or cultural leaders, some ethnic minorities fleeing prosecution, but 160,000 went to china, while tens of thousands took to the oceans, and made their way to other places include thailand, malaysia, indonesia and the philippines. they sailed in boats hardly
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seaworthy sometimes. an estimated 25% to 50% died at sea. if they were lucky to made it to land, sometimes they were forced back to sea by governments lie thailand and malaysia that refused to accept them and take responsibility. those refugees who were fortunate enough to live on and make it to a refugee camp lived in squalid conditions, and by the middle of 1979 nearly 100,000 vietnamese boat people were in malaysia and hong kong. so far i've only talked about refugees from vietnam, cambodia, but i should also mention what are known as muong and lao
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refugees. this is employry, but a lot of stories versus told through this traditional art form. just looking at this image, what do you see? what do you notice? what story of war does it tell? >> i think it's really interesting that the technology is really depicted in this depiction. i see sword fight, you but also planes, which you i think is funny to see embroidered. i'm interested in the deer to the left slurping at the river. it's a nice juxtaposition of how war comes into a landscape, but
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the landscape still functions as is, and it would be cool to see an aftermath quilt of what would happen. >> yeah. absolutely. you call attention to some key details. you see a river. this river represents the naekong river. you see the juxtaposition of rural life and war. you see these boxy buildings, which could represent either the refugee camps or the military sites where muong troops organized. you see people in a line, all walking in the same direction, fleeing perhaps to safety. so this represents muong experiences during the secret war and their subsequent migration out of laos to
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thailand. the united states worked with the muong as well as lao people in their fight against communists during the secret war in laos in the 1960s. with the assistance of the cia, and the green berets, the general and thousands of soldiers he commanded were the frontline defense responsible to warding off the communition advan -- the staggers cost of muong sacrifice during this period is important to know through 13 users of guerrilla warfare estimates problemsly 17,000 people died. some of the soldiers who died were teenager, confide young. the secret war entered a new phase in 1973 when the united
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states signed a peace accord with north vietnam. evacuated all of the american military leaders from laos. some soldiers dispersed into the countryside, some joined the general army. in 1975, vang pao and some military leaders were airlifted by the cia out of laos, but most were not as fortunate. thousands of muong people embarked on the treacherous westward exodus to thailand carries possessions on back, families traveled by foot throughed jungle and adjourn yesterd -- journeyed at night.
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so that crossing of the river is such a powerful part of muong stories. you can see it powerfully depicted here. now americans today have paid attention to news of refugee crises overseas. they've been following news reports, watching footage on nightly news. they've been following on social media, and americans in the 1970s were just like us today. they were following developments overseas with great interest. and americans who were moved by news accounts of this humanitarian crisis, this was a really important development in causing americans to say we should actually do something. the plight of southeast asian refugees began to build.
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americans began to push to provide relief and resettlement opportunities. so first i want to talk about support for one, many americans rooted their support in the idea that the united states is an exceptional country, an immigrant country that has special status in history as a refuge for the scorned, hated and hunted. one 1975 public opinion survey found the leading reason why americans supported the admission of southeast asian refugees was that, quote, tradition of the united states as a sanctuary for europeans fleeing oppression of their homelands. that same poem fouled a
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plurality agreed -- so we ought to leave the refugees from vietnam in. throughout the cold war, americans continued it feel a special obligation to people who were fighting against communism, people whomp the less fortunate human beings who faced retribution and persian could you tell us. this was also another reason why a lot of americans were open to accepting southeast asian refugees. a 1986 poll found a majority of respondents agreed that the united states should accepted political refugees who were specifically flees communist countries. there was also a specific regio united states had been involved in years of war complain fare heightened the sense of
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obligation. they we particularly those who had worked closely with the military and the cia or the diplomatic corps. americans who had worked in vietnam felt terrible about potentially abandoning their southeast asian colleagues. other advocates argued that americans must aid and admit whose suffering was the direct consequence of u.s. military action. for some, it was an act of penance for america's sins in vietnam. just as powerful as american guilt was the idea of american goodness. pride in american compassion and generosity spurred americans to take action. the idea that the united states was the benevolent leader of the free world also converged with
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religious ideas, the idea that the united states needed to be the good samaritan. finally refugee advocates argued that americans should not admit refugees because americans are good, but because refugees are good for america. one senate resolution from 1975 declared this period of exiles can serve to keep us humble, saving us in the sins of arrogance, pride, and self-righteousness. now, i need to tell you this support for refugees really was small compared to the opposition to refugees. s despite the lofty ideal and passionate -- the majority of americans consistently opposed
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the resettlement. this was by no means -- public opinion polls indicate that consistently throughout the 20th century americans have not supported the admission and resettlement of refugees. for example, in january 1939, as the u.s. was grappling with the question of whether to accept jewish ref fees flees nazi germany, only 30% of u.s. americans surveyed said the u.s. should resettle refugees. 61% said it should not. compare that to public opinion polls after the vietnam war. one national gallup poll in may 1975, right after the fall of saigon, found that only 36% of americans surveyed ferravored t resettlement. attitudes towards southeast asian refugees did warm somewhat
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over time, but american reluctant remained fairly consistent throughout 91970s and '80s. as this slide indicates, i added some statistics from october 2016. 41% of registered american voters said the u.s. should accept syrian refugees. 54% said it should not. so this is interesting, because more americans are supportive of refugee resettlement today than compared to after the vietnam war, which i think is a surprising statistic for a lot of people. so why did people oppose southeast asian refugees? "new york times" vitted a town called niceville, florida. that's actually its name.
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the trust is that the town was not particularly nice to the refugees who were arrives from vietnam. niceville is located near egg lund air force base. and despite the proximity to vietnamese refugees, or perhaps because of it, the people of niceville revealed the limits of american welcome. a local radio station polled area residents about the 1,500 vietnamese refugees being airlifted from saigon. 80% of the people said they did not want the military to bring refugees to their town. at one point residents actually circulated a petition, demanding that refugees be sent to a different place, and school children made jokes about shooting refugees. as far as i'm concerned, they can ship them all right back, one woman told "new york times." this worm's support for sending
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refugees back reflected broader national sentiments. in once national poll in june 1975, 85% of americans believed the united states was too pan panicked when saigon fell, and the government should arrange to sent these refugees back. in valparaiso, it was about the stagnating economy and weakening social net. we have enough of our own problems to take care of, a local barber. one customer agreed they don't even have enough money to take care of social security now and they want to bring in more people. these economic concerns were also in keeping with national sentiment. many americans believe that southeast asian refugees posed an economic burden on the u.s. a survey in june 1975 found 62% of americans believed that
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immigrants take jobs away from americans, only 28% believed otherwise. and then there were issues other than economic issues. for one there was concerns about security, about communists slipping in with the refugees. this sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it? robert carr, a realtor in nearby valparaiso believed that it would bring infiltrators. how do we know we won't get the bad guys? you can't say for sure. nobody can and report knows we have enough communist infiltration even now. in 1975 ambassador eldean brown, who led the response, responded to several questions from congress about the adequacy of the immigration and naturalization services security screening, which many saw as overstretched and pressured to
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maximize expediency over thoroughness. there were also cultural concerns. americans opposed to resettlement argued that refugees were culturally unasimable, and here you see the emergence of echos the yellow peril language we saw earlier in history. opponents portrayed southeast asian people as vice and germ-ridden people who threatened public health. there's no telling what kind of diseases they'll by bringing with them, said vinceent davis of niceville. when asked to identify pa diseases exactly they might be bringing, he couldn't quite name them. he said, i don't know, but there's bound to be some kind of tropical germs floating around. sometimes it boiled down to simple racism. at forte walton beach high
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school, for example, students discussed plans to establish a gook-klux klan. so this is in many way what we're hearing today, a variety of reasons why people are concerned about admitting refugeeses. the funny thing about southeast asian refugees, is that given all of this hostility, it actually happened. southeast asian refugees were actually admitted and resettled. as a historian put it, given the intensity of this public opposition, it's a miracle that refugees were resettled at all, and they were resettled in substantial numbers. between 1975 and 2000, over a million refugees came to the united states. what was the most extensive, expensive and institutionally
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complex reese settlement effort in american history. it was also happen hazard, chaotic, controversial, and planners expected it would take a year, but it ended up taking decades. southeast asian refugee migration developed in several phases. there was first the independence ochina assistance act. this outlined the first plans to help refugees from vietnam and cambodia. in these efforts, the federal government greatly underestimated how expensive it would be, how much time and manpower. in the years that followed, congress included the more refugees, in a series of stopgap measures. by 1978 the strain became a tide ar more lowland lao and muong refugees began to come to the
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it's. so president carter raised the quota to 14,000 people were month this 1979, and there remained a challenge of bringing they refugees to a level of self-sufficiency. to meet these needs congress passed a landmark piece of legislation, the refugee act of 1980. it's the act under which we operate still today. it aimed to fix the inefficiencies, and was maintained much of the preexisting program and make it more permanent and stable. it capped refugee annual entries at 50,000. it created new admissions procedures that facilitated the, and provided lodge-term funding for refugee programs. so it's the first general refugee act. up until 1980, the united states had been under criticism for only helping people who are
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anti-communist rather than helping people who needed to be helped. refugee policy should not be driven by cold war geopolitics, but by international laws and norms. so the 1980 refugee act is also important, because it redefined refugee in american law. it defines refugees as any person who's outside his or her own country who is unable or unwilling to return to that country, as your point raised earlier, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country out of fear for persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political pin and more. so given the complexity, it helped lume nate the need to the refugee act, and that's why it's important. it also marked an important shift. the shift towards centering
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refugee he admissions on human rights rather than cold war anti-communism. this generally saw a shift towards humanitarian thinking. gerald ford continued to make the argument that we have admit refugees, because they had been the united states' ally in its fight against communism globally, but people like senator ted kennedy emphasized that they deserved american help due to a more responsibility to alleviate suffering. so what happened to the refugees once they arrived in the united states? how were they resettled? we also need to think but hoe they were resettled, because successful resettlement a made policymakers more likely to want to admit in the united states,
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it's a public/private effort. the government del gates a lot of work to private agencies called voluntary agencies. interestingly, a lot of these agencies are also religious. 75% of southeast asian refugees who arrived in 1981, which is roughly the midpoint to arrivals, were resettled by religious organizations. some of these organ acehs are ones very active and prominent today so religious organizations were important in both advocating and also doing the work of helping refugees in the united states. these voluntary agencies received a government grant between 300 and $a 00 per refugees to help refugees in
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their first few weeks upon arrival. these voluntary agencies also partnered with local organizations. sometimes an individual, usually a community group, especially a congregation, a synagogue or a church. these churches or civic organizations would sponsor refugees, and sort of take them under their wing. sometimes refugees would actually live in church buildings for their first few days in the united states. i interviewed one family -- or one church response art that had housed a family in their church. they didn't have hours, so they lived in the sunday school classrooms, and walked across the streets to the seminary and took showers there. they lived like that for a few weeks. this actually came up in the movie "gran torino" which i know some of you have seen. in that film, clint eastward is
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talking to a young woman, how did you get here? she jokingly says, blame the lou ran lutherans. that is one important theme. religious organization, religious groups have been powerful in advocating for refugee admissions, and they have been really important to making refugee resubtlement happen. they did so for a variety of reasons, as this flyer from church world service points out. churches, in their view, are avenues of god's love to refugees. the last line is pretty important, particularly how protestant christians viewed. jesus, who himself was a ref gee, said by helping refugees, we are really helping him. they also had the financial backing of the government to do that work. the united states refugees program would not have happened without these private
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organizations. now, they have their own goals for resettling refugees, but religious groups and government had a shared objective, which is bringing refugees to self-sufficiency as soon as possible. this quote from mark frank of the in the united states conference of catholic bishops illuminates that. i'm inviting someone who wants to get involved in that effort, but also advised that their role is not to be everything for the newcomer. their role is to help them be asself sufficient as soon as possible. don't create dependencies if the worst thing is to create a dependency. this reflected the government's goal of resettling refugees in a way that could not put a lot of people on welfare. this was an object section of both government and private agencies involved in resettlement, so the goal was to ensure that refugees would not be a public charge, would be
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economically self-sufficient, would have a job, and if they were children, this he would go to school, but there were also commitments to cultural assimilation. to that end. refugees were actually spread out across the country. as one person put it, spread thin like butter so they might disappear. there was a desire on the part of policymakers to prevent -- that characterize the rove gee and immigrant migrations earlier in u.s. history. in my view, a lot of our conversation takes into consideration the needs of government. it takes into the needs of sponsors, of community members. it doesn't always involve listening to southeast asian
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refugee voices. so in general, i will say that refugees were grateful to be resubtled into the united states, but they were little deeply unsettled by the experience. they faced a number of challenges, economic challenges, cultural adjustment, language acquisition, trauma due to war, physical and mental health problems due to war also. intense anti-refugee hostilities and racism. the separation from family and friends, the uncertainty of what future lay ahead. i think one of the most powerful ways to understand what it was like, is to listen to oral histories. so i'm going to call attention to yur mua's story. she's a muong woman, who currently lives in st. paul, minnesota. she shared her story through a
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project at the minnesota historic historic historical society. at the well fair office, he told me that how come you did not go to work and why are you just coming to ask for more among. that is what he told me. but he did not know how much struggling we had been through. he did not know how lucky we are to stay alive so we could come to this country. maybe he would still say all those things about us. the reason why we are having this problem is because of the americans who came to our country and caused all these problems. that is the reason why we came to this country, but he does not know about that. all he sees is that we are here to use his money and take his country and his home. the they really hate the people who are on welfare like us. for those who went to work to
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support their own families, then the americans said that now they are taking away our jobs. so let's unpack this a little bit. why does yer moua feel frustrated? >> she's frustrated, because the welfare office is assuming that her story without really knowing her. it kind of reminds us of the last discussion and the perception of americans towards muslim america. so i think it's like they're not taking into account her experiences. >> there's a frustration of americans not fully understanding why muong people are coming to the united states in the first place. this is a big issues for a lot of refugees. we had fought on your side. why are you hating us now? there was a lot of frustration
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with the lack of understanding and the lack of history. by sharing stories through things like oral history projects and memoirs, fiction, i think muong people, vietnamese people have been able to tell their story to a wider audience and improve understanding, but in those first years, they didn't really have a platform to tell their story, as eatsily as they do now, for sure. this is another muong woman. you read an excerpt from her memoir for today. there's a few lines from the text you read. she came to the united states as a child. she had the unique perspective.
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kao kalia writes, our parents told us not to look at the americans. for the first year and a half we wanted to invisible, everywhere we went beyond the housing project, we were looked at, felt exposed. we were dealing world trade center wide realization that we must do one of two things to survive in america -- grow up or grow old. okay. so she felt profound pressure to grow up really fast, translating for her parents, helping them navigate the bureaucracy that allowed their family to eat. later she writes -- money was like a person i had never known or a wall i had never breached before. it kept me away from my grandma. i saw no way to climb this wall. sometimes i thought so much about money that i couldn't sleep. money was not bills and coins or
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a check from welfare. in my imagination, it was much more. it was the nightmare that kept love apart in america. so here you have another aspect of frustration. her family's not just financially struggling, but that financial struggle meant that they could not be with loved ones. this is a powerful aspect, that people might be separated for years from family a members, might not even know what their status is. one last line from the memoir add night the family gathered for long conversations which was always about surviving in america. the same topic the adults in my family first started. it was a conversation that would continue for the next 20 years. how do we survive in america? and still love each other as we
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had in laos? so what are some thing that kao kalia did to survive? does anyone remember? what was her strategy for survive? how to connect to her commitment to education f for kao kalia yang, the way to survive was to do well in school. a tremendous amount of pressure on her in the story to do well academically, to maybe go to college someday. one thing that i think is powerful learning about southeast asian-american history is that it reminds us asian-americans are month on lithic, there are a variety of different backgrounds, experiences that shaped their
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migration to the united states and the waits they're able to thrive in the united states, but what was amazing to see is how much up-yard mobility has been accomplished within the span of a generation. a woman gave birth on the side of a river to a baby. she couldn't immediately swim across, because she had just given birth. the baby was so small. as soon as she was able, she did. her husband carried one child on his shoulders. she carried the newborn baby. they swam across the river as troops were shooting at them. i asked after she told the story, what happened to the baby she carried. and she said she's a law student at uc berkeley now, so i think it's powerful to remember how much struggle southeast asian refugees have experienced, due to war, due to union heefl, due to dislocation, culturally,
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political, mickley, it's fewerful, but i sells think we serve it by just focusing on success stories. i want to conclude here, ka kao kalia yang is a success story, but just like how the model minority mythology is so probl problematic, and increasingly you see refugees telling their stories about the struggle, pointing out the unsettledness of resettlement, not simply to correct the narrative, but also to inconvene in contemporary debates.
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i want to read a few lines from the same essay i quote at the beginning of this lecture. here vitt thanh nguyen, connects, and talked about how they've been intervening and debates on the treatment of muslims. we see southeast asian americans draws on their own past to stand up for refugees in the present. he writes, today when many americans think of it as a success story, we forget that the majority of americans in 1975 did not want to accept vietnamese refugees. for a country that prides itself on the american dreams, refer geez are simply un-american, despite the fact that some of the original english settlers, the pure tans, were religious
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refugees. today syrian refugees face a similar reaction. for reasons of culture, religion and language, and in europe and the united states the attacks in paris, bruce also, and orlando, florida, have people fierce that syrian refugees could be islami they're -- to the perception, when they were ones who up fleeing persecution at the hands of communists in asia. i continue here -- because those judgments have been rendered on many who have been cast out or fled, it's important for those of us who were refugees to remind of world of what our experiences mean. a colleague once jokingly referred to as journey to
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refugee -- he stocked joking, and said you don't look like one. he was right. we can be invisible, even to one another, but it's precisely because i do not -- that i have to prohe claim being one, even when those of us who were refugees would rather forget there was a time when the world thought us to be less than human. i will close there. any questions about any of the materials i lectured about today? okay. thank you. i will see you all next week, discussing the sympathizer an the bon tempo chapter. i wish you a wonderful weekend. now i can actually say that. i will see you next week. thank you.
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