Forty years ago today...
Vietnamese fishermen were at the center of a court victory against the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. When thousands of Vietnamese refugees resettled in America after the fall of Saigon, many faced hostility from local, predominantly white communities. Tensions turned violent in Galveston, Texas, culminating in a ground-breaking civil suit brought by the Vietnamese Fishermen’s Association (VFA) against white supremacy. Read more to learn about how the case touches on issues at the intersection of civil rights, human rights, and immigrant rights, and ways to teach this case in your classroom!
During and after the Vietnam War, over 200,000 refugees resettled in the United States, fleeing Communist reeducation camps, famine, and poverty in their homeland. Many settled in the Galveston Bay area near Houston, Texas to work in the shrimping and fishing industry. While the earliest refugees were often high-ranking professionals and immigrated under President Ford’s 1975 Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, thousands of poorer refugees fled to America by boat. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people died tragically on these boat journeys. The plight of the “boat people” prompted President Jimmy Carter to pass the Refugee Act in 1980, which allowed for refugee exceptions to the 1965 Immigration Act’s visa quotas, and established a formal system for resettlement in the United States.
Read about the latest updates on the Immigrant History Initiative's projects.