Many soldiers fathered children in Indochina during the Vietnam War. Although immigration reform in 1975 addressed the refugee crisis of this region, these children were left out of specific consideration. The 1982 Amerasian Immigration Act sought to remedy this situation and provide preference in immigration admission policies for these children of United States citizens, whose mothers were not married to the U.S. G.I.’s. This legislation did not provide for the mother’s entry. She was required to release parental rights in order for the child to immigrate.
Eventually, the diversity of America’s population would be further enriched with the arrival of Amerasian children from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea. This humanitarian inspired legislation, although thoughtfully inspired, was also woefully deficient. Although the United States would definitely be a better place for these children to grow up in, the fact remains that they were separated from one parent in order to be reunited with another parent, simply because the parents were not married. Many of these parents desired to get married. For military personnel such as sailors, at that time in history, they could only marry with the consent of their captain. Often, consent was denied. Many of these children were born to Asian women and American servicemen who were in committed relationships yet could also be abruptly torn apart without a moment’s notice if a serviceman’s duty demanded redeployment. In these cases, the gringa believes the nation was terribly remiss in separating these families.
Many veterans of this conflict that were separated from loved ones by refusal of commanding officers to give consent to marry, or sudden redeployment, still have children and the mothers of their children in Asia with no contact with the American father in the States. Even today there are veterans and Asian women and Amerasian children who are searching for one another, searching for their families. Unfortunately, even if they find one another today, they would not be able to reunite under the conditions of this legislation. Although birthright to an American parent, regardless of geographical location of birth, guarantees a child the right to American citizenship, paternity certification documents must be filed before the child reaches the age of eighteen. The children left behind that were borne of this era of conflict and have survived, are now adults.
The gringa believes the U.S. failed to live up to its ideals in refusing these families to remain united. The gringa believes the U.S. failed to extend proper respect and appreciation for the servicemen who risked their lives for the nation and were then denied a marriage to a woman who was loved, and denied the serviceman the right to preserve his own family. Were these not rights the serviceman was defending and preserving in his very duty and service to country? What the hell, Congress of 1970’s and 1980’s? Where were your “pro-family, American freedom and American dream” minds? To the gringa this is so simple. You keep the family together. Period.
And as for the argument that some of these children were conceived by prostitutes, the gringa says, “So what?” It is estimated that over fifty thousand children in the Philippines alone were fathered by American servicemen in such a way. Does this mean a father would no want to be reunited with his own flesh and blood? Do these children deserve to be denied their rightful U.S. citizenship simply because their mother is a prostitute? Does the United States feel such a situation makes it okay to create a second-class citizen in these children? Does being the son or daughter of a prostitute disqualify a person from U.S. citizenship even if the father is a U.S. citizen? Show the gringa the law which says that is so. These children, by law, are United States citizens. Why the hell were they left behind? Why, with American blood coursing through their veins, are there any obstacles to them entering their own country and reuniting with their fathers?
As the conditions of post-war Indochina worsened when American troops left, many of these children suffered not only the loss of their American father, but many were also abandoned by their mothers. This is a tragedy that the United States had the power and, therefore, the moral obligation, to remedy, yet did not. Many of these orphans were further disadvantaged because of the stigma they suffered as the children of prostitutes. The gringa asks, “Why in the hell should any child bear any culpability for a parent’s career choice? Why should this be any factor at all in determining whether or not a child is socially acceptable? Why should this even be an issue to consider in allowing this child of a U.S. citizen to gain entry to the nation and reunite with a parent?” Even if a war veteran who fathered a child does not wish to reunite, why should any of this prevent a child who is legally a U.S. citizen from coming to their own, damn country? They are not even “immigrants”. They are CITIZENS! These children were U.S. citizens, helpless in their plight, and their country failed them.
The gringa is very disappointed how far this bill missed the mark considering that the prior two decades had shown such great promise in the humanitarian nature of immigration reform. Although the gringa is stirred to the point of anger because these innocent U.S. children were left behind, I must admit that the shortcoming of the nation was indicative of the social perspective at that time. Children born to parents that were not married were still stigmatized even on American soil. I suppose it is then only natural that the country did not regard children born to servicemen and women they were not married to as children who were legitimate citizens. That would account for why the amendment did not include specific wording for their inclusion. Not only were these children victims of war, they were victims of time.
After making such great strides in social progress, it seems the nation began to regress. Who in their right mind in this nation does not see that immigration reform is the most important humanitarian issue that affects so many people in the United States today? Why does Congress get together, year after year, and do nothing? Immigration reform is about human beings who not only want to come here and have a better life, immigration reform is often about coming here to find a long, lost loved one unwillingly ripped away from a person. Such inhumanity is a nasty stain on America. America is in need of redeeming itself. This can only be done with humanitarian inspired immigration reform that is long, long, overdue.
Photo credit: www.blueskygallery.org