Episode 4, Lesson 6
Southeast Asian Refugees
On April 30, 1975, the Fall of Saigon marked the end of the Vietnam War, with the communist North taking over the anti-communist South, and unifying the country into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The end of the war resulted in a large-scale migration of nearly 130,000 refugees fleeing communist rule and retaliation in the Indochina region, to the United States. Over the next twenty years, a total of three million people would flee Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
- Learn about the migration of refugees to the United States after the Vietnam War from Southeast Asia.
- Examine the dominant narratives regarding the Vietnam War, and the counter narratives being produced by Asian Americans.
- Learn about U.S. refugee laws and programs, and why they are necessary.
- Examine present day examples of world refugees.
- Communism: ideology structured upon the ideas of common ownership and the absence of social classes , money and the state.
- Refugees: people who have been forced to leave their country because of war and/or they have been mistreated and victimized due to their racial or ethnic background, religion, nationality, and/or political beliefs
- Resettlement: helping people, often refugees, move from their home country to a nation willing to allow them to settle there
- Trauma: when people who have experienced terribly frightening and distressing events, leading them to emotional responses that make it difficult for them to cope with life
- What are examples of how Southeast Asian refugees faced discrimination when they moved to the United States? Why were they being treated in this way?
- Why do you think the U.S. government created laws to allow so many Southeast Asian refugees into the U.S.? What does this say about the responsibility that the U.S. might have toward people abroad who have been affected by U.S. foreign policies?
- According to professor and author Viet Thanh Nguyen, what issues affected Southeast Asian refugees, like his family, when they arrived in the U.S.?
- How did the discrimination experienced by his parents lead Viet Thanh Nguyen to “write another story” for Southeast Asian refugees?
- How do Viet Thanh Nguyen and Ham Tran rehumanize the Vietnamese people in their storytelling?
- Dominant narrative: History or story that’s repeatedly told through a dominant culture’s interests or ideologies.
- Counter narrative: History or story told from the point of view of an often marginalized or lesser known group.
- “Miki Nguyen’s Story” from Last Days in Vietnam: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
The Vietnam War PBS documentary clips:
- “A Great Cost”
- “Vietnamese vs. Vietnamese”
- “Shot Right Here”
Dominant Narrative - From the “Southeast Asian Refugees” clip, look closely at how American films like Platoon and Casualties of War portrayed Southeast Asians. Consider how these films represent the dominant narrative of the Vietnam War
- How are white American soldiers portrayed?
- How are Vietnamese people portrayed?
- How is each group humanized or dehumanized? Explain why.
- What effects have these films had on Southeast Asian refugees? Why?
Counter Narrative - Use the clips from Last Days in Vietnam and The Vietnam War to answer the questions below. From the “Southeast Asian Refugees” clip, think about how Asian Americans have contributed to providing a counter narrative of how Vietnamese people are portrayed during the Vietnam War?
- How are Vietnamese people portrayed? How is this a more humanizing depiction?
- Why did many Vietnamese not want to share their stories about the war until they were formally interviewed by Ham Tran?
- What is the importance of having the stories of Southeast Asian refugees be told by southeast Asian refugees themselves?
- Displaced Persons Act of 1948
- Refugee Relief Act of 1953
- Migration and Refugee Assistance Act 1962
- Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act (1975)
- United States Refugee Act of 1980
- American Homecoming Act of 1988
- According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, who qualifies as a refugee and how can they come to the U.S.?
- What is the purpose of this law?
- From which countries did most refugees come from under this law?
- Why might it be important for the U.S. to have refugee laws and programs?
- Until late 2019, the U.S. accepted more refugees from around the world each year than all other nations combined. How has the U.S. refugee resettlement program in the U.S. changed over the years? Share source material used to answer questions.
- What caused the refugee crisis?
- Why did people flee?
- What has the United States and other countries been doing about the Syrian refugee crisis?
- Based on the reasons that the U.S. accepted certain Southeast Asians as refugees, should the U.S. accept Syrian refugees?
- What factors determine the U.S. government’s decision to grant legal refugee status to a person?
- “Remembering When Southeast Asia Refugees Dominated Discussions,” NPR
- “The State of The World's Refugees 2000: Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action - Chapter 4: Flight from Indochina,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- "The Devastating Impact of Deportation on Southeast Asian Americans," Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
- “Teaching about Refugees,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)