Now and then, I like to look for bright spots in the immigration disaster that has overwhelmed us in the last three decades.
Memorial Day is one of those times.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died to preserve our great country and traditions. None of those who lost their lives defending democracy and freedom ever imagined that the United States might one day be delivered gift-wrapped to Mexico—compliments of the White House.
So this weekend is a particularly good occasion to remember that—albeit unintentionally—some good has come of the nation's relentlessly reckless immigration policy.
I'm thinking of my Vietnamese students from ten years ago. Those adults who learned English from me are now US citizens who have steady jobs or own their own businesses.
And their children—some of whom were my high school teaching aides—have graduated from college to become nurses, teachers and bankers.
But there are success stories—more among the Vietnamese than among many other groups.
And, to their great credit, some brave Vietnamese have now joined us in the battle for immigration reform.
Vietnamese refugees simply do not understand how their sacrifices as they traveled along the treacherous and bloody path to American citizenship can be equated to Mexicans illegally crossing the border "seeking a better life."
How, wonders Vu Nguyen, can the US government be so casual about granting amnesty and eventually citizenship to illegal aliens?
"Illegal immigration is wrong," Nguyen told me. "Everyone is hurt by it."
Nguyen was a Lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Navy before being rounded up by the North Vietnamese in 1975 during the communist takeover.
Once captured, Nguyen spent ten years at hard labor in a Communist camp and fully expected to die there. But in 1985, under pressure from the UN, the Vietnamese government released most of its prisoners of war. Nguyen spent four more years in a refugee camp in the Philippines before coming to California. He is now an American citizen.
Although Mexico would like you to believe that the self-inflicted hardships endured by some of their citizens to illegally enter the US should automatically qualify them for a green card, none of their stories compares to Nguyen's.
Le Quan Hoang, Director of Vietnamese for Fair Immigration, thinks the Vietnamese sacrifices have been forgotten in the rush to appease Mexico.
When Hoang read a typically tendentious plea for "earned residency" for illegal aliens in the Denver Post, written by Hispanic apologist and University of Colorado at Denver professor Estevan Flores [Send him mail], she bristled.
In her response to Flores published in the Denver Post on February 29, 2004, Hoang wrote:
"Vietnamese immigrants fought
on the U.S. side against global Communism, losing
500,000 of our relatives in the process. We also lost our
homes, country and everything we owned in this fight.
Then we had to escape Communist Vietnam in
small boats, where another
200,000 Vietnamese died, and were made to wait for
years in refugee camps before being allowed into the U.S.
"To Vietnamese, this is what 'earned residency' means."
[Earn your citizenship, Denver Post]
Hoang also took umbrage at last year's infamous "Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride." On October 9, 2003 the Santa Barbara News Press printed Hoang's observations that included this statement:
"We are offended and insulted by their misuse of the word immigrant, as what they really want is amnesty for illegal aliens. Calling illegal aliens 'immigrants' or 'undocumented' attempts to make these criminals who are a net drain on Americans equal to law-abiding Vietnamese immigrants who greatly benefited America."
What Hoang insists on is a fair US immigration policy—not one generous and all-forgiving policy for Mexico and another different policy for everyone else that rigidly enforces existing immigration laws.
To that end, the goals of Vietnamese for Fair Immigration are similar to those of immigration reform groups across the nation:
Among them are:
Again, there are limits to this alliance with American immigration reformers. Vietnamese for Fair Immigration lobbies for more immigration from Vietnam—but not more immigration overall. The organization is acutely aware of the zero-sum nature of immigration policy. Immigrants from one source crowd out immigrants from another. Above all, Vietnamese for Fair Immigration recognizes that illegal immigration wrecks everything for everyone who obeys the law.
I spoke to Vietnamese for Fair Immigration Board of Directors member Tim Brummer who told me:
"More than 200,000 Vietnamese are stalled trying to come to the United States legally. Some have been waiting 12 years. Unlike Mexicans, Vietnamese cannot come illegally. The government won't issue a visa unless someone puts down a $30,000 deposit. There probably aren't more than 200 Vietnamese illegally in the US. But all those amnesties and anchor babies just slow down even further the efforts of the Vietnamese who are waiting to legally join their families. We only want what is fair."
As I told my students, "Remember, most of you will live many more years in the United States than you ever did in Vietnam. Think of America as your home."
This posting by Hoang on her website reaffirms what I told them:
"We are Americans first and Vietnamese second, and want what is best for America. We don't want to impose any additional burdens on the American people who have gratefully given us a new home in the land of freedom."
I don't know of any other recent immigrant organization that takes such a reasonable position. ("Mexicans For Immigration Reform"?)
So, while this alliance with other immigration reformers may be limited, it is real.
A complete overhaul of federal immigration law, ensuring among other things that the perceived interests of Mexico do not rank higher than those of others, is the best way to pursue the fairness that Hoang and the rest of us seek—and to preserve the freedoms that Hoang, and so many others, fought for.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.