Vietnamerica: The War Comes Home
The Vietnamese called the Amerasian children of U.S. servicemen bui doi, "the dust of life." Half American and half Asian, they had been abandoned by their fathers to a xenophobic society that ostracized them. Nor was the U.S. government anxious to acknowledge their paternity and assume responsibility. With the passage of the Homecoming Act, however, the Congress finally, after many years, opened the door to their immigration. Any child who could demonstrate American parentage - if only by the simple evidence of Western features - would be welcome. Relatives too. By then the children's average age was 19. The federal authorities settled the Amerasians in cities like Rochester and Utica, provided them with temporary housing in dilapidated asylums and meager vocational training in jobs like motel housekeeping. Ironically, a good many began their new lives accompanied by bogus relatives who had alleged kinship in order to escape their homeland, using the Amerasians like human tickets to America for their own families and themselves. Reunions with fathers were rare. The majority of young adults after a very few months were on their own again. Little had changed for them except that in America they were illiterate in two languages and knew virtually no one. The transition was not easy for any but if the Amerasian children are anything they are survivors, however damaged.