As the Biden Administration Brings Afghan Interpreters to the U.S., there is an opportunity to close the chapter on Evacuees from the Vietnam War
Washington, D.C., July 3, 2021
On September 11, 2021, the U.S. will withdraw fully from Afghanistan after an almost 20 year war. President Biden has committed to evacuating the Afghan citizens who worked for the U.S. as interpreters and in other capacities during the war, acknowledging the critical role they played in supporting the U.S. mission. As these individuals and their families find themselves in a new land, the U.S. must decide how they will support the new lives these families will forge for themselves.
“The Biden Administration is doing the right thing by bringing these individuals and their families to the U.S. Their lives would certainly be at risk if they remained behind. This is not dissimilar to the threats and ostracization suffered by interracial children born from U.S. serviceman and Vietnamese mothers during the Vietnam war,” stated Dr. Kieu Linh Valverde, a Founding Member and Interim President of Tim Lai, a nonprofit organization focused on reuniting Amerasian children with their families and preserving this rich U.S.-Vietnamese history.
There are humanitarian lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War as the U.S. grapples with their responsibility to the individuals who willingly assisted the U.S. or were innocent victims of the fighting. There are also unique perspectives that will assist this new immigrant group to be shared by the experience of the Amerasian community. During the Vietnam War, it is estimated that 67,000 interracial children were conceived as a result of unions between American military personnel and Vietnamese women. Less than 2% of Amerasians have been reunited with their family since the 1987 Homecoming Act. Even at middle age, they contemplate questions like, “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” and desire to piece together the puzzle of their heritage.
Additionally, life in the U.S. has not been easy for many of these interracial adults who were recognized as unwitting victims of the war and transported to the U.S. Never granted U.S. citizenship when brought to the U.S., they instead came under a green card status, despite having a parent of U.S. citizenship. Scholars and historians have exposed a contradiction on the part of policymakers that deemed Amerasians worthy of immigration opportunities, yet fell short of giving Amerasians citizenship.
“As time is running out to reunite Vietnam veterans with their children, this is also an incredible opportunity for the Biden Administration to bring positive closure to another group of individuals brought to the U.S. as a result of a war, namely the Amerasian children from Vietnam and their U.S. Veteran fathers,” stated Valverde. “Additionally, the struggles faced by the Amerasian community due to their immigrant status can help guide the U.S. government as it supports integrating this loyal group of Afghans and their family members into U.S. society.”
For more information on the experience of the Amerasian evacuees, challenges to integration caused by immigrant status and language barriers, and stories of resilience, success and reunification, please timlai.org.
ABOUT TIM LAI Tim Lai is a 501(c)3 created for Amerasians of the Vietnam War era to search for their relatives, including American fathers, Vietnamese mothers, and extended family members. In addition to uniting families, Tim Lai strives to preserve and advance Amerasian history, build a transnational Amerasian community and help facilitate a path to U.S. citizenship for Amerasian people.