Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association / Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation Collection

Introduction

The records of the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA) were donated to the Archive by the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation (VAHF) in 2005. The FVPPA/VAHF Collection contains 157 linear feet of immigration applications, correspondence, speeches, meeting notes, financial and legal records, printed materials, and other administrative records that document the activities of the FVPPA a non-profit organization active from 1977-1999 in campaigning for the release of Vietnamese re-education camp prisoners. The records document not only the activities of the FVPPA, but also the individual stories of over 12,000 applicants for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) Orderly Departure Program (ODP). The UNHCR created ODP in 1979 due to the high death tolls of Vietnamese Boat People. It is the first and only time the UNHCR has assisted refugees in emigrating from their country of origin. The collection is arranged in six series: ODP Applications, Office Files, Resettlement Files, Master Lists of Applicants, Restricted/Reserved Files, and Oversized Documents.

Note:

The names of the ODP applicants are written in the Vietnamese order, which is opposite the American order. For example, the American President John Quincy Adams would be written Adams Quincy John in the Vietnamese order.

On the FVPPA’s ODP application forms are four important abbreviations: IV#, VEWL#, LOI, and HO#:

  • IV# = Immigrant Visa. Before ODP was created in 1979 the Vietnamese Processing Unit at the American Embassy in Bangkok, there was no American Embassy in Vietnam at that time, dealt with I-130 Immigrant Visa petitions. When ODP began there were already thousands of pending immigrant visa petitions. ODP was expanded to include non-visa petition cases based on Affidavits of Relationship, refugees, who were also asssigned an IV number. Numbering ranges of the IV#s indicate whether the applicant is an immigrant or refugee.
  • VEWL# = Visa Entry Working List. The way ODP was designed was that Vietnam and the U.S. would each submit case lists for comparison and the matched cases would proceed in the departure process. The U.S.’s list was called VEWL.
  • LOI = Letter of Introduction. Matched VEWL cases were issued an LOI signed by the head of the U.S. ODP program in Bangkok, which asked Vietnam to issue exit permits and schedule the applicants for an interview with UNHCR’s Working Group in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
  • HO# = Humanitarian Operation (HO) was a subprogram of ODP specifically for former reeducation camp prisoners.

Collection Opening Ceremony

Letters of Support and News

The archival records of the FVPPA have become a vital key to understanding the Vietnamese American immigration experience. In recognition of the FVPPA Collection’s importance and the Vietnam Archive’s mission to preserve the history and voices of Vietnamese Americans, the archive has received letters of support from several distinguished political figures, diplomats, and humanitarian organizations.

Accessing the Collection

A finding aid to the complete collection is available. This finding aid is organized into series and subseries, with descriptive information and a box list of each included.

Additionally, a searchable database of the Application Names files has been created. People who find their own file listed in the database who are interested in restricting access to their files can use a link included on the page to file their request.

Privacy Information

While the Applications Series of the collection offers a wealth of demographic and genealogical knowledge to researchers, the files contain personal information on over 12 ,000 individuals who applied for the Orderly Departure Program. To balance researcher accessibility with privacy concerns, the Archive kept the Applications series restricted (closed) for six months. During this time, any person who worked with the FVPPA and had concerns over personal information possibly contained within the records could contact the archive to make the appropriate arrangements to safeguard his or her privacy. A web page has been created where individuals can search a database of applicant file names. The web page includes contact information for the archive and instructions for individuals interested in restricting their files.

Special Thanks

This project was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.