[1/30/17] Despite today’s liberal outrage over President Donald Trump’s refugee executive order, many liberals in 1975 were part of a chorus of big name Democrats who refused to accept any Vietnamese refugees when millions were trying to escape South Vietnam as it fell to the communists.
They even opposed orphans.
The group, led by California’s Gov. Jerry Brown, included such liberal luminaries as Delaware’s Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, former presidential “peace candidate” George McGovern, and New York Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman.
The Los Angeles Times reported Brown even attempted to prevent planes carrying Vietnamese refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base outside San Francisco. About 500 people were arriving each day and eventually 131,000 arrived in the United States between 1975 and 1977.
These people arrived despite protests from liberal Democrats. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times recounted Brown’s ugly attitude, reporting, “Brown has his own checkered history of demagoguery about refugees.”
Back in 1975, millions of South Vietnamese who worked for or supported the U.S. found themselves trapped behind the lines when the communists took over the country. Vietnamese emigre Tung Vu, writing in Northwest Asian Weekly, recalled the hardships the Vietnamese faced in 1975 as they tried to escape the communists.
“After the fall of Saigon, many Vietnamese chose to leave by any means possible, often in small boats. Those who managed to escape pirates, typhoons, and starvation sought safety and a new life in refugee camps,” Tung wrote.
Ironically, Republicans led by former President Gerald Ford were the political figures who fought for the refugees to enter the United States.
Julia Taft, who in 1975 headed up Ford’s Inter-agency Task Force on Indochinese refugee resettlement, told author Larry Engelmann in his book, “Tears Before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam,” “The new governor of California, Jerry Brown, was very concerned about refugees settling in his state.”
National Public Radio host Debbie Elliott retraced Brown’s refusal to accept any refugees in a January 2007 interview with Taft. According to a transcript, which was aired on its flagship program, “All Things Considered,” Taft said, “our biggest problem came from California due to Brown.” She called his rejection of Vietnamese refugees “a moral blow.”
“I remember at the time we had thousands and thousands of requests from military families in San Diego, for instance, who had worked in Vietnam, who knew some of these people,” she told NPR.