THE NEW AMERICANS: A HANDBOOK TO IMMIGRATION SINCE 1965, pp. 652-673, Mary C. Waters, Reed Ueda, Helen B. Marrow, eds., Harvard University Press, 2007
17 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2007
In the years following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, one and a half million refugees and immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia arrived in the United States. Together with their nearly half a million American-born children, by the year 2000 they already represented more than one out of every six Asian Americans, adding significantly not only to the size but to the diversity of the Asian-origin population in the U.S.; but the story of their migration and incorporation differs fundamentally from that of other Asian Americans. Except for persons of Japanese descent, the overwhelming majority of today’s Asian Americans are foreign-born, reflecting the central role of contemporary immigration in the formation of these ethnic groups. But unlike the others, most of the Vietnamese (together with the Laotians and Cambodians) came as refugees rather than as immigrants. Unlike post-1965 immigrants from the Philippines, Korea, China, India and elsewhere in Asia whose large-scale immigration was influenced by the abolition of racist quotas in U.S. immigration law, the Vietnamese entered outside of regular immigration channels as part of the largest refugee resettlement program in U.S. history, peaking in 1980 and continuing thereafter. As refugees from a country devastated by war, they experienced contexts of exit more traumatic than other newcomers in recent times and they had no realistic prospects of return to their homelands. Their reception as refugees also entailed an entry status that facilitated access to a variety of public assistance programs to which other immigrants were not equally entitled. The American welfare state shaped their incorporation far more than any other immigrant group in U.S. history, even as their exodus and resettlement were themselves complex, unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policies and of the American warfare state. This paper explores the history of their migration and the growth of their population in the U.S., their patterns of settlement and acculturation, social and economic adaptations, and the transitions to adulthood of young Vietnamese Americans coming of age in American contexts.
Keywords: Vietnam War, Vietnamese Americans, refugee policy, immigration, acculturation, socioeconomic mobility, transitions to adulthood
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