Vietnamese Americans Subject Guide

About This Subject Guide

The purpose of this Subject Guide is to give researchers a brief introduction to research materials related to post-war Vietnamese refugees, immigration and resettlement in the United States.

Vietnamese Americans

Vietnamese Americans have a unique immigration experience and compose the largest refugee population in the post-World War II era, with California having the largest and Texas having the second largest population of Vietnamese Americans in the nation. Vietnamese Americans comprise more than half of all overseas Vietnamese and are the fourth largest Asian American population in the United States. 72% of Vietnamese Americans are naturalized citizens.

On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces. That spring, approximately 125,000 Vietnamese fled the country. That year, an estimated 111,919 Vietnamese refugees and orphans left Vietnam through Operation New Life and Operation Baby Lift. Over 90,000 refugees who participated in Operation New Life and Operation Baby Lift resettled in the U.S.

From 1978 to the mid-1980s, an estimated 1 to 2 million Vietnamese left the country by boat, an illegal and dangerous undertaking. Commonly referred to as "boat people," these refugees faced dangers from overcrowded vessels, environmental perils. Many were lost at sea or fell victim to pirates. Alarmed by the high death tolls the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) created an Orderly Departure Program (ODP) to assist Vietnamese refugees in emigrating from Vietnam in a systematic, orderly, legal manner. This is the first and only time the UNHCR has helped refugees emigrate from their country of origin.

In response to the hardships endured by the boat people and the June 14, 1980 Geneva conference on Indochinese Refugees, the U.S. government allowed the immigration of Vietnamese to the U.S. through the UNHCR’s ODP.There were three categories in which Vietnamese could qualify for immigration to the U.S. under these programs: family reunification, former U.S. employee, and former reeducation camp detainee. Former reeducation camp prisons immigrated to the U.S. through the ODP’s subprogram, Humanitarian Operation (HO).

The Orderly Departure Program helped over 500,000 Vietnamese refugees immigrate to the U.S. before it ended in 1994. In November, 2005, the US and Vietnam signed an agreement reopening ODP and renewing the McCain Amendment (which allowed the children of former reeducation camp prisoners to immigrate with their parents). The renewal of ODP ended in February 2009, with the McCain Amendment expiring in September 2009.

In 1987 the U.S. Congress passed the Amerasian Homecoming Act, allowing Vietnamese children having American fathers to immigrate to the U.S. This Act allowed an estimated 23-25,000 Amerasians and 60-70,000 of their relatives to immigrate to the U.S.

Suggested Virtual Vietnam Archive Keywords

Virtual Vietnam Archive

Suggested Collections

Oral Histories

One of our goals is to preserve the voices of Vietnamese Americans by increasing their participation in the archive’s Oral History Project and to interview important individuals who aided Vietnamese Americans in their immigration to the U.S. One of our first oral history interviews was with Ambassador Sichan Siv. Ambassador Siv, former Deputy Assistant to President George H. W. Bush for Public Liaison and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council, was the first Asian native to be appointed Deputy Assistant to the President. In this role Ambassador Siv was instrumental in assisting Mrs. Khuc Minh Tho, President and founder of the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA), solicit support from the Executive Branch of the U.S. government and bring to its attention the issues regarding Vietnamese refugees and Vietnamese reeducation camp prisoners. A former refugee himself, Siv fled Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge in 1976. Ambassador Siv was a key player in bringing larger Asian issues before the Executive office. The VAHP’s second Oral History is that of Mrs. Khuc Minh Tho, who as founder and President of the FVPPA assisted approximately 10,000 former Vietnamese political prisoners along with their families immigrate to the U.S. and other free nations.

Suggested Books

TTU Library Book Catalog