The Southeast Asian Migrant Experience
New America Media just published an excellent piece entitled, "The Long Road To America." Instead of just focusing on the U.S. this piece follows migrants all the way back to the countries from which their fleeing. It has an especially excellent section on Vietnamese migrants:
In March 1981, at the age of 16, Truc Ho was one of many foot people who crossed the borders of Vịetnam and Cambodia for Thailand.
On his way, from Saigont to Hatien, Phnom Penh, Xiem Riep and Battambang, near the border of Thailand, the young man crossed jungles, dangerous roads, not knowing when the death came sometimes by motorcycles, at times by trains and many times on his feet. It was a chaotic time in Cambodia because the civil war had just ended.
''When we were near the border, we got into an area that no one really controlled. There were a lot of bandits. Children at 13 years old held guns. We had to bribe whenever we crossed an area. Then we were cheated by the guide, didn't know what to do but cried. No one was there to rescue us,'' said Ho, a composer.
Finally, Ho successfully crossed the Thai border after giving a guide the last ring of gold he had saved.
After two months in a refugee camp, he resettled permanently in the U.S.
''I escaped Vietnam because I was not treated fairly. My father was an official of the previous regime. I saw a lot of unjust, no future for me,'' he said.
That's the same type of feeling the people of Mexico and parts of Latin America have today: No future. Crossing into the U.S. for them, is their hope, but it isn't without risks.
Vietnamese Americans understand.
Elly Nguyen, a Boeing Co. engineer, escaped Vietnam on foot via Cambodia in 1980 at the age of 20.
''To me, the way Hispanic people cross the border is not as dangerous as mine,'' she said. ''They are not as hopeless for future as I am. They know they might get caught, but they know it's hard for them to die.''
But she acknowledged the way Hispanic people cross the U.S. border is the same with the way she did 28 years ago. Both are illegal.
''We came to Cambodia illegally then. We were chased by both Cambodian and Vietnamese soldiers there,'' she said.
The status of Vietnamese when they first come to another country, either by boat or on foot, is not different from the residents of Latin America who cross the U.S. border illegally.
Nam Loc Nguyen, immigration director of Catholic Charities in Los Angeles, said: ''According to immigration law, when (refugees) first come to another country, called a temporary country, by boat or on foot, those Vietnamese are undocumented. Only after being screened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), they might get refugee status and introduced to a third country. If not, they are automatically deported.''
''After a meeting with temporary and third countries in Geneva, Switzerland, UNHCR decided to close all refugee camps in Southeast Asia in 1996. Whoever came to those camps after that were not welcomed. They were asked to self repatriate, which is self-deported in reality, or forced to be deported.''
''Those who came to the Philippines are the exception. They still live here, thanks to the intervention of the Catholic Church. However, the Philippines government never gave them any status. In fact, they are now 'legally undocumented,''' he said.
Elly Nguyen aid: ''I never oppose any Hispanic migrant crossing the U.S. borders. They have to abandon their country and work hard to make a living and have money to send home, just like other immigrants. If I were the border patrol, I would let them in.'' (Read on)Nguoi Vet - New America Media (10 September 2008)
The whole article is great. I recommend you read the whole thing.