The Law: Federal legislation establishing a resettlement assistance program for Southeast Asian refugees
Date: Enacted on May 23, 1975
Significance: Strongly supported by President Gerald R. Ford and opposed by those who feared an influx of Southeast Asian refugees after the end of the conflict in Vietnam, the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act allowed some 200,000 Cambodians and Vietnamese to enter the United States under a special “parole” status and provided financial assistance for their resettlement.
After Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese at the end of the VietnamWar in 1975, thousands of people tried to flee Southeast Asia. Although many Americans feared that a large number of refugees would deflate wages and create a social burden, Congress passed the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975, which permitted refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam to enter the country and provided $455 million for resettlement. In 1976, the act was amended to include refugees from Laos. Nonprofit groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Civitan International, and the International Rescue Committee, sponsored families, providing food, clothing, and shelter until they could support themselves. Initially, the U.S. government placed refugees in scattered locations, hoping to prevent the formation of large enclaves. Once families’ lives stabilized, however, they tended to move near each other, with many settling permanently inTexas and California.
Cynthia A. Bily
See also: Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1987; Asian immigrants; Cambodian immigrants; Congress, U.S.; Hmong immigrants; Laotian immigrants; Refugees; Vietnamese immigrants.