In 2009 there were 1.1 million immigrants from Vietnam in the U.S., making them the fifth largest American immigrant group. Vietnamese started coming to the U.S. in the 1970s and kept coming through the 1980s and 90s. The number of Vietnamese residing in the U.S. has greatly increased since 1980 when there were only 231,120 (Terrazas, 2008). The number of Vietnamese gaining permanent residency has been decreasing since the peak in 1992, with a slight peak in the early 2000s. The use of the Vietnamese language in the United States more than doubled between 1982 and 2012. About a third of Vietnamese Americans are Catholic.

The Vietnamese granted lawful permanent residence status in 2001 numbered 28,691. This shows a significant decrease of refugees admitted from Vietnam since 1990. The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. that were born in Vietnam is estimated to be about 160,000 and has not seen much increase since 2000 (Terrazas, 2008).

The majority of immigrants from Vietnam reside in six states: California has the vast majority of immigrants, followed by Texas, Washington, Virginia, Florida and Massachusetts (Terrazas, 2008). The metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Jose in California are home to the largest number of Vietnamese immigrants. The Washington D.C. region is home to the largest Vietnamese population on the East Coast with around 60,000 people.

Vietnamese run many of the nail salons in the Los Angeles area. There are about 70,0000 Vietnamese-Americans in Texas. There was a lot tension between American and Vietnamese-American shrimpers in Texas. The two groups would occasionally take pot shots at each other from the boats. Things reached a fever point when a Vietnamese shrimper killed a local who was beating him up. This was followed by a rash of boat burning.


'Amerasians' are the product of unions between American servicemen and Vietnamese women. They generally have noticeably black or Caucasian features. It is estimated that there were about 50,000 of them. Many have never met or don’t know who their father is. Some of the most unfortunate ones were abandoned out of shame by their mothers. Some of the lucky ones get child support form their overseas fathers. Most Amerasians are now in their 40s. They have traditionally been ostracized by most Vietnamese because they are considered half-breeds. Some of them begged on the streets.

Waves of Vietnamese Immigrants to the United States

The Vietnamese people who worked with the U.S. government or who sympathized with the South feared for their lives once Saigon fell and the Communists took all of Vietnam. In 1975, 130,000 Vietnamese fled to the U.S. with the collapse of the Thieu regime. They escaped with the help of the U.S., and were mostly young, well educated, English speaking, urban dwellers. Fifty-five percent were Catholic, and many were able to bring their families intact. Most were kept at relocation centers on U.S. military bases until sponsors were found to help them resettle. This is referred to as the first wave of immigrants. [Source: Pamela LaBorde, MD, Ethnomed + ]

Stanley Karnow wrote in Smithsonian magazine: "The first wave to arrive in 1975 was largely composed of Saigon government officials and army officers, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen and employees of the U.S. mission in Vietnam. Almost half had college degrees...The next surge of refugees gathered momentum during the late 1970s, bringing in a different breed of Vietnamese—peasant and fisherfolk fleeing poverty, young men evading conscription in Vietnam's new wars against China and in Cambodia or Chinese expelled by the Communists.

In 1977 Jimmy Carter opened up emigration. About 168,000 arrived that year. After 1979 "orderly departure" 350,000 of the 500,000 boat people that left Vietnam went to the U.S. The second wave of refugees was a more diverse group. It included people with differing ethnicity's, nationalities, religions, and languages. As a group, these people were less educated, less literate (in Vietnamese and English), less familiar with Western ways and ideas, and more rural than those in the first wave. Due to the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, military offenses against the hill people of Laos, and the continued anti-Sinitic policy of the new Vietnamese government, 455,000 refugees from SE Asia settled in the U.S. between 1979 and 1983. With relations between China and Vietnam deteriorating, and with the ethnic Chinese remaining in Vietnam being persecuted, at least 500,000 fled from 1977 to 1979. During the second wave, escape attempts were long and arduous; only half those attempting escape are thought to have survived. Hoards of people attempted escape by boat. Travel by boat was filled with peril, many died due to disease, mishaps on overcrowded boats, or at the hands of pirates. Those in Northern Vietnam boated to Hong Kong or to nearby Chinese provinces. From these destinations, many came to the U.S. Others stayed in Hong Kong. People escaping Vietnam from the south boated to Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Some spent years in internment camps in these countries prior to entering the U.S. Of those who survived, many suffered malnutrition, disease, and horrible treatment at the hands of camp guards. +

A third wave of refugees arrived from 1985 to 1991 and continues to arrive in small numbers. This group included both Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese people who were brought to the U.S. through family reunification programs. Additionally, in 1988 and 1989, the U.S. government negotiated the release of political detainees held in "re- education" camps. Many people in this wave spent years in camps under devastating conditions. +

More Vietnamese have continued to arrive in the U.S. after that. The top five sources of legal immigrants in the United States in 1995 were: 1) Mexico; 2) the Philippines; 3) Vietnam; 4) the Dominican Republic; and 5) China. Source of immigrants in the United States in 1992: 1) Mexico (22 percent); 2) Vietnam (8 percent); 3) Philippines (6.3 percent); 4) former Soviet Union (4.5 percent).

Fleeing Vietnamese Boat Person Becomes an Optometrist in California

Rachel Raskin Zrihen wrote in the Times Herald, "She could have been captured by pirates. She could have drowned or perished from thirst or starvation. But fate had other plans for former Vietnamese "boat person" Bach-Kim Nguyen". She became an optometrist in Vallejo, California. The second of 10 children and a single mother of two, Nguyen escaped her native Vietnam in 1982, at 22. [Source: Rachel Raskin Zrihen, Times Herald, January 21, 2004 ]

"I didn't want to escape," Nguyen said. "I wanted to become a doctor in Vietnam. I love my country so much and I don't believe anyplace else would appreciate a good doctor with a good heart as much. I never wanted to leave." Nguyen said she applied for and was the only person in her province to pass the medical school entrance exam, but she was blocked from attending by a local government official who had a grudge against her family. "My family wasn't communist enough," Nguyen said. "Plus my father had a disagreement with (this bureaucrat's) business partner once, and those things combined, they wouldn't let me go. So I started to plan my escape."

Nguyen tried and failed to escape twice before succeeding. "The first time, some of us planned to steal a boat, but too many people showed up and it became too dangerous," Nguyen said. "The second time, we paid for a boat, but it never came. We waited for hours, all night, hiding on the beach. One little boy died when he woke up from his sleeping pill, and his mother had to suffocate him to keep him quiet." Nguyen said she almost gave up, and in fact, took accounting classes, but didn't like it.

"My uncle convinced my parents that I have a calling and they should let me go if I could find a way," Nguyen said. "Some people my mother knew were planning an escape, and I went with them, even though getting caught would ruin not just my life, but my family's, too." Nguyen and a friend boarded their secret craft on a beach on the appointed night, and waited for the men to load supplies. However, she said, they were discovered, and the boat hurriedly set sail without the men or the supplies.

"We had to cut the rope," she said, "and 59 women and children, and about 10 older men, left alone. We met some fishermen and they sold us some food and after a week, we were rescued by an American cargo ship. "They took us to Subic Bay in Manila and we registered as refugees and were sent to a refugee camp," Nguyen added. "The only reason I'm in America is that we were rescued by an American boat." Nguyen said that without a sponsor in the United States, she could easily have languished in the camp for years, like thousands of others. But fate had other plans.

"You can be in a camp forever if you have no one in another country to sponsor you," Nguyen said. "I had no one outside Vietnam. It was just luck or chance that I got here. Being rescued was like being born a second time. Everyone on the boat felt that way. "I thought I was so smart and brave and I learned I didn't know anything," Nguyen said. "People died on these trips. Sole survivors ended up eating human flesh. Sometimes the boats were overtaken by Thai pirates and the girls sold into prostitution. It's kind of a miracle that I'm here."

Nguyen said she met her oldest daughter's father in the camp, and moved with him to San Francisco, where he had an aunt. The relationship didn't work out, but Nguyen started working toward achieving the goals that brought her here. "My only goal was to get into medicine," Nguyen said. "Getting rescued solidified my determination to do something with my life. Nothing was going to stop me."

On welfare, Nguyen took classes at San Francisco City College, where she made grades good enough to earn her scholarships. After four years, she transferred to the University of California at Davis, where she earned a degree in biochemistry. But by then her second marriage had produced another daughter and another divorce, and study time was at a premium. "Someone suggested optometry school," Nguyen said. "I volunteered at an office to see what they do, and I liked it. It wasn't as long a program and is still medical-related. It was possible to do as a single mother." Nguyen said she applied and was accepted to the optometry program at U.C. Berkeley, from which she graduated.

Vietnamese Immigrants Adjust to Life in the U.S.

Pamela LaBorde, MD wrote: "Initially, refugee families had to deal with many issues in adapting to their new home in America. Elders were the leaders in families, had the strongest influence in decision making, and were respected and sought after for advice. Younger family members were to be obedient and respectful. Also, elders held property rights of the family, and could retire once their children could support the family. Today, although the younger generation still respect this traditional hierarchical family structure and values the elders’ opinions, they are more independent financially and able to make their own decisions. This diffused hierarchical tradition is apparent for both families that reside in the United States and in Vietnam, but more so with those in the U.S. Like most immigrant families, one of the most common issues that Vietnamese refugee families face is the barrier of language and culture, not only with those outside of their culture, but also within their own families. [Source: Pamela LaBorde, MD, Ethnomed + ]

"As Vietnamese youths attend school and interact with others in American society, they become assimilated to the American way of life. This can create a clash between the traditional elders and the Americanized youths for the elders might not approve of certain behaviors and speech patterns. As a result, some elders might feel isolated and disrespected. In the Seattle area, there is still a general preference for marriage within the Vietnamese community, though the younger generation does not put as much emphasis on this as the older generation. The older generation does not push their values on the younger generation, but may especially prefer a Vietnamese mate for their child if one of the parents does not speak much English. +

Rural people of the second wave are less likely to speak languages other than Vietnamese. Some have difficulty learning to read and write a second language because as farmers, many were not literate in their native Vietnamese. If they had learned to read and write, they seldom used these skills.

During their run from their country, many people lost their property and many of their material goods. Many elders who want to work outside the home are unable to, because of their lack of training for available work, their age, and lack of English skills. They become very socially and culturally isolated while their younger family members become more self-reliant and financially independent. This situation has created a fundamental role reversal - the elders no longer have power, money or land, and become financially dependent on their children. Because they are culturally isolated, they are no longer sought after for advice. This creates much tension in families where elders feel ignored and disrespected, while their children become more culturally proficient and adapt to ways their elders do not approve of. The elderly (parents) were supported by married or unmarried children until they die (John). [Source: Vietnamese Cultural Profile, Diversicare, March 2009]

From Vietnam’s Top School to a Job at K-Mart

Darragh Johnson wrote in the Washington Post, "KieuThu, whose supervisor would rename her "Theresa" after she arrived in the United States, and PhuongNga, whose American boss would someday christen her "Nancy," both came from the central area of Hue in Vietnam. They were in the same class of about 40 girls. Two months before her 1975 graduation, KieuThu left Vietnam. It was March, one month before the fall of Saigon. "April 30th, that's our black day," she says. "I was here" -- in the United States -- "and I looked at our TV screen, and I saw the communist tanks through the gates of the president's mansion. The whole sky collapsed in front of me. I said, 'I will never see Vietnam again.' It was a very terrible feeling." [Source: Darragh Johnson, Washington Post, October 20, 2007]

"The girl who had been studying at one of her country's finest schools now found herself stashed in the back room at a Washington area Kmart. On weekends, she woke at 4:30 a.m. to work at a doughnut shop, then went to work at Roy Rogers. She studied English, was promoted to cashier at Kmart, and "when I was old enough to serve liquor, I worked as a waitress." She earned a scholarship to George Washington University, she says, and studied finance. She is now a CPA for a K Street law firm.

PhuongNga, now 52, was stuck in Vietnam for nine more years. "Even though I graduated from high school," she says, "I could not go to college because of my family." Eventually, 30 extended family members were living in their Saigon house. She remembers believing the rumors that if girls didn't marry fast, they would become "a prize for the soldiers" -- "a sex slave," KieuThu says -- so PhuongNga married her next-door neighbor. They didn't make it out until 1984.

TrucMai, 51, comes from a family that held an exalted position in Vietnam. She got married 23 days before she and her eight sisters and their parents fled the country. Eight days before the fall of Saigon, they left, first going to a refugee camp in Fort Jeffrey, Ark., and then, three months later, to Washington. She got a job working full time at American University and studied business administration there part time "It was 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for how many years?" she asks rhetorically.

Little Saigon in Orange County

Conservative Orange County, California has the largest concentration of Vietnamese outside Vietnam (about 135,000 as of 2002). Many of them live in Little Saigon in Westminster, California, which is like a miniature South Vietnam transplanted to southern California. A large community was founded here because Westminister is where the first Vietnamese arrivals went to get their welfare checks and the businesses that were started to cater to them grew and grew and grew.

In the mini-malls the shops have Vietnamese names, signs are written in Vietnamese, people speak Vietnamese and play Vietnamese music and the fortunetellers provide Vietnamese fortunes. There are 30 Vietnamese-language newspapers in Orange County and temples with Buddhist monks and nuns.. Some have said it is what Vietnam would have looked like had the south won the war.

Some conservative Orange County Viet Kieu are still very active in anti-communist activities. They have boycotted businesses of Vietnamese-American who did business in Vietnam. In 1999, Vietnamese-Americans exchanged blows and one woman was arrested for ramming a baby-stroller into police barricade over the hanging of a poster of Ho Chi Minh in an Orange County video store.

As of 2005, of the roughly 250,000 Vietnamese living in Southern California, many lived in central Orange County. Thousands attended Garden Grove's Tet Festival, with its traditional food, cultural exhibits and rides. The celebration also has a more somber note as people attend temple to pray for ancestors and make offerings at homemade shrines. [Source: Mai Tran, Los Angeles Times, February 9, 2005]

Prosperity Comes to Little Saigon

In 2006, James Flanigan wrote in the New York Times, “Three decades ago immigrants from Vietnam started coming in sizable numbers to the United States, fleeing the rule of the Communist government after the Vietnam War. The newcomers arrived with little money or possessions, but they have built a beehive of commerce bridging two cities in Orange County, Calif. - Westminster and Garden Grove. The two cities are home today to more than 150,000 Vietnamese-Americans and more than 5,000 Vietnamese-owned businesses. [Source: James Flanigan, New York Times, January 19, 2006 //]

“Yet, there was no Vietnamese-owned bank in the community - known today as Little Saigon - until last year. The banking needs of the immigrant companies were served by major institutions, like the Bank of America and Wells Fargo, or by Chinese and Korean banks. But now, two new banks with investors and owners from the Vietnamese community have opened, indicating the rising prosperity of Vietnamese businesses in America and growing economic connections with a vibrant entrepreneurial sector back in Vietnam. //

“First Vietnamese American Bank raised more than $11 million in capital and opened in May. "We can provide leadership to this community," said Hieu T. Nguyen, the bank's president. "When Vietnamese businesspeople come to this bank, they can deal with the bank president personally. They can come home," said Mr. Nguyen, who has worked for banks in California and Asia since immigrating to the United States in 1980. //

"It is great that we have First Vietnamese Bank for our community," said Paul Nguyen, owner of the Pacific Machinery Company, an airplane parts supplier, in Garden Grove. The success of Pacific Machinery speaks loudly of the spirit that enabled once-penniless immigrants from Vietnam to build prosperous communities in America - and undoubtedly is helping other Vietnamese to build entrepreneurial companies in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam today. //

“A former first lieutenant in South Vietnam's army who was educated in the United States, Mr. Nguyen was imprisoned in Vietnam for 10 years when North Vietnam won control of the South. He said he returned to America in 1985 at age 37. While working in machine shops, Mr. Nguyen taught himself computer-aided design and manufacturing. In 1992, he opened his company and qualified as a minority contractor, supplying parts to Boeing. "I work hard, 12, 13 hours a day," Mr. Nguyen said. Today, he owns three buildings and a company employing 70 people, with annual revenue of $10 million, supplying Northrop Grumman and Raytheon as well as Boeing. Mr. Nguyen, now 58, said he was ready for the next phase. "I am going to invest $5 million to buy a larger plant and machinery so I can supply Boeing's new planes," Mr. Nguyen said. Raising capital is no obstacle, he said. "I can raise $5 million," he said. "Bankers are happy to lend to me. The people from Boeing say, 'Paul, you are the American dream.' I say 'thank you, America.' " //

Radio Talk for the Vietnamese-American Community in Orange County

My-Thuan Tran wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Annie Mai knows what it's like to be the only Vietnamese student in class. She understands what it is to have parents who work long hours and are unable to help their children with schoolwork. And she can relate when a child must translate for her parents during teacher conferences. Mai was 7 when her family arrived in Orange County in 1979 and was immediately confronted with such challenges. Now an education consultant for the Garden Grove Unified School District, she knows that Vietnamese families still face many of the same difficulties. The 48,000-student district has struggled to reach out to the Vietnamese community since refugees began settling in this middle-class suburb after the war, dramatically changing its demographics. In Garden Grove schools, the proportion of Vietnamese has shot up from 3 percent of students in 1977 to nearly 30 percent today. [Source: My-Thuan Tran, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2009 :]

"Mai, a former teacher in Garden Grove, believes that the district has found a way to better connect with Vietnamese parents: through a talk show program on Radio Bolsa, KALI-FM (106.3), at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. "Sometimes Vietnamese parents aren't going to come to the school, they're not going to ask the teacher, they aren't going to share with an administrator," said Mai, one of the hosts. "But they will listen to the radio show." Called "Youth and Education," the program is geared toward Vietnamese-speaking parents who are unfamiliar with the U.S. school system and want tips on helping their children through school. Topics include getting kids ready for the year and finding financial aid for college. There are also shows about special education and online bullying. :\

"The show reaches out to parents like John Nguyen, 48, who immigrated to the U.S. in his 30s and is now raising two sons who go to Ethan Allen Elementary School in Garden Grove. Nguyen, his wife and mother-in-law listen to the radio show every week. "The show brings up topics that I never thought of before," said Nguyen, who owns a graphic design business. "I never went to high school or middle school here, like a lot of Vietnamese parents. That's why there are a lot of things we don't know." Nguyen said he had learned about after-school programs, programs for gifted students and how to prepare students to transfer to other schools. Nguyen, a PTA member, has also been a guest on the show, encouraging Vietnamese parents to volunteer at schools. :\

"Parents "feel more connected to the Garden Grove school district," said Debbie Youngblood, director of kindergarten-through-12th-grade education. "We're helping them navigate the educational system better." Vietnamese parents in neighboring Westminster and Fountain Valley also tune in to Radio Bolsa. The show even gets calls from out-of-state parents who access the show through the Internet, Mai said. :\

"A frequent topic is how to balance Vietnamese and U.S. cultures. "How can I make sure my kid keeps practicing Vietnamese?" one parent asked during a recent show. "He keeps speaking to me in English, and I'm afraid he's losing his language." The hosts suggested playing games with children, such as asking them to translate songs they learned in school.Language and cultural barriers have been a constant challenge for both teachers and Vietnamese parents, many of whom experienced different learning styles and parent-teacher interactions in their homeland. "Things like prom, sports, theater class -- those are things that most parents learned growing up in the U.S.," said Lan Nguyen, one of two Vietnamese members of the Garden Grove Board of Education. "Many immigrant parents did not know what to expect from school. They didn't know what they needed to do, and they don't understand how to help their children." :\

"In Vietnam, the teacher has the complete and full responsibility for the education of your children," said Quyen Di, a lecturer at UCLA, who was the in-studio guest. "Here it's not necessarily the case." He urged parents to attend open houses and conferences even if they didn't feel completely comfortable speaking in English. "Vietnamese parents tend to say, 'The way the teacher teaches is good enough. I don't have an opinion,' " he said. "But you should have the opportunity to participate in the activities of the school." :\

Vietnamese News Show in California Canceled over Images of Ho Chi Minh

In 2004, Associated Press reported from Westminister, California: "A Vietnamese television station in southern California canceled a news program after it briefly aired images of the communist Vietnamese flag and Ho Chi Minh, the founder of communist Vietnam. Executives at Saigon TV canceled "Vietnamese American Xposure," a weekly half-hour English-language program, and issued a public apology after dozens of angry viewers complained about the flag and photos. [Source: The Associated Press, November 1, 2004 /*/]

"Michael Nguyen, head of Saigon TV, said it is considered unacceptable to show images of Ho or the communist flag in Vietnamese media in the U.S. because they can be offensive to Vietnamese refugees. Saigon TV is privately owned and broadcast statewide. Nguyen said he did not see the Oct. 9 news segment before it was aired by a non-Vietnamese technician who was unaware of the significance of the images. /*/

The segment was about protests that erupted in 1999 when a video store owner in Orange County's "Little Saigon" community, home to the largest concentration of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam, hung the flag and a poster of Ho in his shop. "VAX" showed the images for about five seconds, but that was enough to enrage refugees in the area. "We are trying to forget the images of Ho Chi Minh and the flag burning, but they aired them on television and opened up old wounds," said Cung Tran, the owner of a local weekly newspaper and a member of a group of ex-political prisoners. Sa Dao, associate executive producer of the "VAX" program, said the segment was not meant as an endorsement of communism. He said producers did not think the images would offend anyone since they were presented as part of a news story. /*/

Vietnamese-American Girls Torn Between Modernity and Tradition

Monica Rhor wrote in the Boston Globe, "With their Tommy Boy down jackets, DKNY T-shirts, and candy-colored knapsacks, the giggling girls are a portrait of American teenage style. But when they speak of boyfriends, parental expectations, and the pressures in their world, their traditional Vietnamese upbringing takes charge. 'My parents don't let me have a boyfriend," Nhu Ly, 14, confided during a session at an afterschool group for Vietnamese girls. ''If I did want one, I wouldn't want to hide it from them. It would make my mother not trust me, and I don't want to risk that. I respect them too much." Nhu and the other girls may be growing up in the United States, but they are guided by values born in Vietnam. They may look like typical American teenagers, but Vietnamese culture still fashions their lives. [Source: Monica Rhor, Boston Globe, December 5, 2004 ==]

"It can also make them outsiders in their own backyard. Tugged on one side by parents worried that they will become too American, and on the other by peers who say they are not American enough, the girls often feel caught in the middle. In a country where their US-born counterparts are often allowed to date at 15 or younger, stay out late, and have slumber parties, these girls must abide by more stringent standards. In classrooms where students are often boisterous and unafraid to challenge teachers, these girls are respectful and soft-spoken. In their homes, these high school students said, the rules for girls are strict and simple: no boyfriends, sleepovers, or late-night socializing. Girls are expected to get outstanding grades, graduate from college, and launch professional careers before even thinking about dating. ==

"The girls don't chafe at the restrictions. Instead, they work hard to honor the high expectations. ''At first I was happy to be in this new environment, then I felt a lot of trouble," said Ngoc Nguyen, 16, a South Boston High School student who came from Vietnam 2 years ago. ''My parents think I will be going wrong, meeting bad friends." But at school her classmates often tease her about being so quiet, Ngoc said. ''We are girls. We are shy. American teenagers get excited, talk loud. We talk smaller. I am Vietnamese; that is how we are." ==

"It is a problem shared by hundreds of Vietnamese-American girls who are striving to hold on to tradition while struggling to adapt to a new environment. The balancing act can take a toll. ''I feel like I'm divided into two cultures: The Vietnamese is to be serious and study; the American is to have fun," said Thao Nguyen, 16, a South Boston High School student. ''I learned that I can't be what everyone wants me to be. I'm the outcast of my family, the rebellious one." Thao said she responded to the pressures by rejecting ''the typical Asian lifestyle." She started smoking and hanging out with street gangs; she dyed her hair red and got a nose ring. Now, Thao said, she wants to return to a more traditional path. ==

''I'm starting to become a more typical Asian, someone who grows up, listens to their family, gets A's and B's, a good job, a good car," she said. In Dorchester, home to the area's largest Vietnamese enclaves, many community activists began hearing accounts of girls who, like Thao, have rebelled against their parents by cutting class, dropping out of school, and running away from home. Other girls, bound by traditional roles, appeared to lack self-confidence, independence, and other skills needed to succeed in this country, community activists say. In response, several community organizations such as the Vietnamese American Community Association have established groups to help girls, most of whom were born in Vietnam, navigate the demands of the United States without shedding their old culture. ==

Phuongdai Nguyen, youth coordinator of the community association, said, ''In Vietnamese culture, the girls don't have freedom," she said. ''At home, they can't speak up or say no. We want to let them know they have support, that we hear their voice." ''So often, Asian-American youth look around and have different experiences than their peers," said Karen L. Suyemoto, an assistant professor of psychology and Asian-American studies at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. ''This kind of group is very important, because it normalizes their experiences. It provides a place where they can talk about it and be accepted. ''Sometimes they don't understand their parents' perspective," she said. ''This helps them understand their culture and to see that the choice is not to be American or Vietnamese. It's possible to be Vietnamese-American and hold onto those values." ==

American teenagers, the girls thought, can make their own choices, pick their own careers, wear makeup, and have boyfriends. But, to these teenagers, that kind of freedom might not be such a good thing. ''American parents want their child to make their own choices," Nhu said. ''We thought it was a negative, because they can fall into a deeper hole. Sometimes, they get too much. That is spoiling. Sometimes parents have to take drastic measures." Sleepovers, however, were a different matter. The freedom Americans enjoy is something to envy when it comes to slumber parties. ''They can be good because you can have girlfriend talks and pillow fights," Nhu said, with a trace of wistfulness in her voice. ''I can't go, but I think it would be fun to talk to friends and have time to be free and wild, but not too wild." Vietnamese girls, expected to be flawless and obedient, have to stay at home and follow career paths chosen by their parents. ''Vietnamese parents want us to be lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, and pharmacists," said Ngoc, who plans to become a pharmacist. ''They want to be proud. They want people to say they are good parents because they teach their child to be a lawyer or doctor." The girls do not learn how to make decisions or take responsibility, Ngoc said. ''We don't have confidence to do anything." But, she added, ''There is another reason they want us to be good. Our parents also think of us. If we become a doctor or lawyer, we will have a good future." ''Overall, whatever they do is always good for you," Nhu agreed. She smiled. ''I'm going to hug my mom today." ==

Vietnamese American Shrimpers

Reporting from New Orleans, Ylan Q. Mui wrote in the Washington Post, " They arrived after the fall of Saigon in 1975, lured by the city's tropical climate and strong Catholic heritage. Shrimping and fishing in the Gulf Coast's bountiful bayous was one of the few familiar touchstones for these mostly unskilled laborers with little English. An estimated 20,000 Vietnamese fishermen and shrimpers live along the Gulf Coast — about half of the total fishing community — and many more work at the seafood processing plants, wholesalers and po-boy shops found at every traffic light. They rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina and had to deal with BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. over yet again. [Source: Ylan Q. Mui, Washington Post, June 27, 2010]

"When I came to Louisiana, this was how people here made a living. I had to follow," 50-year-old shrimper Dung Nguyen says in Vietnamese. Now, his wife, their five daughters, his mother-in-law and his granddaughter -- all of whom live with him in a modest rented home in the industrial eastern edge of New Orleans -- are counting on him for survival.

Nguyen came to this country late, in 1992, and drifted through blue-collar jobs in Arizona and California before he fell into shrimping in Louisiana. The couple have lived in New Orleans the longest of any place in the United States. The cost of living is cheap, and work seemed plentiful. They rented their first house here and made friends quickly.

Although the Vietnamese community is centered in eastern New Orleans, it stretches from the marshes of Plaquemines Parish through Biloxi, Miss., and Gulf Shores, Ala., and throughout the seafood industry's supply chain. Vinh Tran, 60, began working as a deckhand on shrimp boats when he immigrated 35 years ago and eventually bought his own boats and opened a shrimp dock and wholesale market named St. Vincent's in the one-road bayou town of Leeville, La. Now his daughter-in-law, Ngoc Nguyen, 27, runs the business. In two months in the summer of 2009, St. Vincent's took in 2 million pounds of shrimp.

Achievements by Vietnamese-Americans

The first wave of Vietnamese emigrants to America were hard-working, resourceful and driven. One writer began working at McDonald’s, then got a job as a machine operator and finally got a Masters in Fine Arts from Brown.

A valedictorian at Harvard in the 1980s was born in Vietnam. There was surprising number Elvis impersonators in the 1990s who were Vietnamese-Americans. Many of them were men in their 50s and 60s who were first introduced to King by American GIS in the Vietnam War.

In a school in Santa Ana, California even though Vietnamese make only 15 percent of the student body, 26 of the top 33 students in 1992 were Vietnamese. One student told Karnow: My parents "are really proud of me. So I have to keep improving, even if there is no room for improvement. I also feel their pressure. Just study, they say. I can't wash the dishes, mow the lawn or take a summer job. heir entire goal is to see me succeed."

Another student said: "My parents made me learn to read and write in Vietnamese—or at least tried to. At home we speak Vietnamese and English, but my Vietnamese isn't that great. I'm comfortable in English."

The Green Dragon: Film on the First Wave of U.S. Vietnamese

The Honolulu Star Bulletin reported: "The film "The Green Dragon" tells about the first wave of Vietnamese refugees who came to America in 1975. Camps were set up across the southwestern deserts to house more than 100,000 Vietnamese immigrants before and immediately after the fall of Saigon.A child, played by Trung Nguyen, searches daily for his mother at sprawling Camp Pendleton, Calif., encountering characters that embody ambition, hope, tragedy, false expectation and lost identity. An American volunteer cook named Addie (Forest Whitaker) befriends the child, Minh. Without verbally understanding each other, they have an unusual bond through drawings, Batman comics and music, and the common loss of a mother. [Source: The Honolulu Star Bulletin, July 5, 2002 =]

"In another of the stories that merge, Minh's uncle Tai, played by Don Duong, is asked by Sgt. Jim Lance (Patrick Swayze) to be a camp manager. The war has ended, yet each has an internal battle in need of peace. Lance's brother died in the war and left behind a letter describing the only woman he ever loved, a Vietnamese nurse who cared for him when he was wounded. Lance's journey of understanding, through both the letter and the woman, help assuage a guilt that has plagued him for years. Tai also is at war with his own guilt and, with Lance's help, finds the strength to look forward without forgetting the past. =

"For both of us,'' says Tim, "the next natural step before we went on to tell any other stories was to tell a story about our family, the journey of the first wave of refugees.'' They have finished writing three scripts, none of which has anything directly to do with Vietnam. They have moved on, and by doing so have become part of the success story of the resettlement camps. "I think the success of the program can be seen in the success of Vietnamese who went through it,'' Tim says, "and who now own businesses and have careers and got on with their lives and became American.''

"Green Dragon is written by Vietnamese writer Qui Duc Nguyen, a friend of Timothy Bui. Nguyen came to America in 1975 and in 1979 began setting up radio programs for the Vietnamese communities in California and Texas. He's also worked in international television in New York and with a multi-lingual Internet company in Los Angeles. For several years, he was a regular commentator for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," and was awarded A Citation for Excellence by the Overseas Press Club of America in 1989 for his NPR documentary on Vietnam. He has traveled extensively in Asia and Europe. =

Nguyen currently hosts "Pacific Time," KQED public radio's national program focusing on Asia and its connections to the United States. He is author of "Where the Ashes Are, The Odyssey of a Vietnamese Family," (Addison-Wesley, 1994), co-editor of "Vietnam, A Traveler's Literary Companion" (Whereabouts Press, 1995), and "Once Upon A Dream, The Vietnamese-American Experience" (Andrews and McMell, 1995).

First Vietnamese American Congressman

In 2008, Anh "Joseph" Cao became the first Vietnamese American elected to the U.S. House or Senate after winning Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, near new Orleans. He defeated veteran congressman William "Cold Cash" Jefferson, famous for his federal indictments and $90,000 in marked bills found in his freezer. [Source: Neely Tucker, Washington Post, December 30, 2008 =]

Neely Tucker wrote in the Washington Post,"Cao (pronounced "gow") is 41. He is soft-spoken, with neatly combed, thick black hair. His trade, until recently, was immigration and personal-injury lawyer. He stands just under 5-2. Soaking wet, he might weigh 125 pounds. He is a very good listener. He smiles, but not all the time. He runs five miles every day before dawn. He is telling this story in his lightly accented English, a reminder that he was airlifted as a child out of Saigon "two or three days" before that city fell to communist forces. =

"He's been running for office for 10 years. It's just in the past few weeks that anyone noticed. "Nobody gave him a chance, and all of a sudden -- boom! -- he was right there," gushes Eddie White, a retired electrician who has a fishing shack just down the canal from Cao's home way out in the bayous of east New Orleans. "It's like the American dream." =

"After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans’s 15,000 or so Vietnamese residents, stuck out in the wasteland of east New Orleans, came back en masse, some 95 percent of them. They repaired their ranch-style homes and replaced their statues of the Virgin Mary in their front yards. They went back to their shops, amid the smell of sulfur from nearby plants and the thick fog that rolls in from the backwaters. So when the city put a landfill in their neighborhood in February 2006, Cao and other local residents were furious. They formed civic groups to fight back. Cao leapt into the fray, lending guidance and legal strategy to the protests and ran for a state representative seat. The protest worked -- the landfill was shut down -- but the campaign flopped. Cao ran as an independent and placed fifth in a field of six. Hoang remembers him going alone to knock on doors, and how Cao and a brother put together his Web site. "He just had no support at all," she remembers. =

"But Cao's bid caught the attention of Bryan Wagner, a Republican and former City Council member. He persuaded Cao to join the Republican Party, then helped Cao get on local and state party leadership committees. In 2008 he saw to it that Cao secured the party's nomination to challenge the scandal-plagued Jefferson. Wagner introduced Cao to the GOP national convention leaders in September and helped him raise more than $200,000 for the campaign. Still, Jefferson was the "prohibitive favorite," as the city's main newspaper put it. He had been in office 18 years. He was the first black candidate to win the seat since Reconstruction, a fact dear to the city's 60 percent-plus black residents. And he was a Democrat, the party that had controlled the seat for more than a century. =

"Jefferson was first among all Democrats in the general primary and handily won a runoff in November. But Hurricane Gustav had delayed the election cycle a month. Jefferson was vastly diminished by the scandals and was running out of money. Cao and Wagner had been holding back during the Democratic primaries, doing almost no campaigning, rocking the opposition to sleep. Now they pounced. They poured money into media advertising, plastering signs up all over town, making the political rounds. Cao talked about good governance and levee protection. He talked about honesty. He won newspaper endorsements. He gained the support of Democrats such as Helena Moreno, who had faced Jefferson in the runoff, and City Council President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, a member in good standing of the city's political establishment. It didn't hurt, as Wagner puts it, that in the 2nd District's areas outside New Orleans, where there were more Republicans and conservatives, Jefferson was "just a little less popular than [serial killer] Jeffrey Dahmer." Final tally: Cao 33,122 votes, Jefferson 31,296. =

Story of Vietnamese American Congressman’s Early Life in America

Neely Tucker wrote in the Washington Post, "If America was a land of dreams in 1975, it seemed more like a phantasm to the bookish Vietnamese boy who stepped off the plane. His country had collapsed, his family had fractured. As communist forces overran Saigon, his mother took him, a brother and a sister to the airfield and handed them off to an aunt, who shepherded them as far as Guam. The brother stayed with their aunt, and the sister was sent to an American foster family in Florida. Cao went to live with a bachelor uncle in Goshen, Ind. Cao's father, a South Vietnamese army officer, was arrested by the new regime and shipped to a brutal reeducation camp for seven years. His mother and his five other siblings remained in Vietnam. (A younger sister who stayed behind was later hit by a car and killed; it would be years before most of the family was reunited in the United States.) "We didn't have a good childhood, let me put it that way," says Thanh Tran, the sister who was raised in Florida and who now lives in Falls Church. [Source: Neely Tucker, Washington Post, December 30, 2008 =]

"In Goshen, Cao's uncle worked nights at a McDonald's. They lived in a basement apartment, with windows that were barely above the ground. In the winters, snowdrifts blanketed them. The winds, the blowing branches, storms, darkness: They filled the boy with terrors of mythical Vietnamese ghosts. "It was horrifying," he remembers. There were no English as a Second Language classes, so school administrators put him in the first grade to learn English with the little kids. He prayed and dreamed of becoming a Catholic priest. He took a paper route to earn money. He made friends and discovered that he liked the snow after all. =

"After his uncle married, they wound up with other relatives in Houston, with most of his family reunited. Cao graduated from Baylor University with a degree in physics before joining the Society of Jesus in 1990. Better known as the Jesuits, the 468-year-old society requires vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The "absolute requirement" is the "promotion of justice." Cao was 24 when the Jesuits sent him to work in poor areas of Mexico. He did missionary work in Hong Kong and China. He obtained a master's degree at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York. He went back to New Orleans, to Loyola University -- founded by the Jesuits -- and lectured. No matter where he went, he struggled with his internal "sea of doubt." =

"In 1997 Cao joined Mary Queen of Vietnam church, the anchor of the Vietnamese community in east New Orleans. He married Hieu "Kate" Hoang, a pharmacy student he once taught in catechism class, in 2001 but she declined to take his last name. "Cao" translates as "tall" or "high," and "we are not tall," Hoang says, smiling. The couple bought a house in Venetian Isles, a waterfront development nearly 20 miles from downtown New Orleans. Cao began practicing law, soon running his own small firm. Hoang worked as a pharmacist at a Walgreens. Their daughter Sophia was born in 2003; a second daughter, Betsy, arrived the next year. =

Vietnamese Americans Return to Vietnam

When Vietnamese-Americans began going back to Vietnam in the 1980s and 90s it was still kind of a novelty. Describing his first trip back to Vietnam in the 1990s, one Vietnamese-American wrote in the New York Times, "For four weeks we traveled all around Vietnam....Throughout, we gave away money...The 11 designated recipients, close members of immediate families, grew to include cousins, children and neighbors. They were poor and didn’t have jobs or schooling...With so much cash it was hard not be lavish...I gave away randomly bags of fruit and sour candies from the open market...I also tipped anywhere from 30 to 500 percent."

By the 2000s it was becoming more of a regular thing. Reporting from Ho Chi Minh City, My-Thuan Tran wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Tiffany Nguyen sauntered down Dong Khoi street, swatting mosquitoes in the sticky heat. Wearing 3-inch black heels, she plunged through a crush of motorbikes spewing smoke and blasting horns, dashing toward a nearby restaurant to meet a friend. Nguyen, 28, grew up 7,800 miles from here in an Orange County suburb. But for the last year, she has worked along this boulevard known as the Fifth Avenue of Vietnam, where boutiques crowd against old Parisian hotels. [Source: My-Thuan Tran, Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2008 //]

Viet Kieu, as overseas Vietnamese are known, are so pervasive here that Cal State Fullerton formed a Ho Chi Minh City alumni chapter. Nguyen is a member. A friend of hers is creating a Zagat-like guide for the city's growing number of restaurants. Vietnamese expatriates are considered an important part of Vietnam's future, said Trung Nguyen, counselor of overseas Vietnamese affairs in the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington. Once viewed with suspicion by the Vietnamese government, overseas Vietnamese are now being wooed back with relaxed business laws and promises of less red tape. Overseas Vietnamese can now own land and get visa exemptions. //

Vietnamese Americans Find Success in Vietnam

Reporting from Ho Chi Minh City, Tiffany Nguyen's family fled this city when she was 9. Her parents never looked back. For a time, neither did their daughter. "Never in my life," she said, "had I planned on going back to Vietnam." Growing up in Fullerton, Nguyen quickly became Americanized. She changed her first name from Thao to Tiffany and had few Vietnamese friends. "I was kind of whitewashed in high school," she said.Nguyen stayed near friends and family for college, enrolling at Cal State Fullerton, taking a job with the American Automobile Assn., returning to Fullerton to earn a master's in business administration. [Source: My-Thuan Tran, Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2008 //]

“But a yearning for adventure prompted a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Amid the rampant poverty, she saw thriving night scenes and swanky apartments. She was captivated by the energy of the country's largest metropolis, a place of 10 million people. Two days after graduation from business school, she moved here, settling in a charming hardwood studio on the edge of District 1, where neon lights lure people into posh clubs and restaurants. In doing so, she became part of an influential trend. //

“There are no precise statistics for how many Vietnamese expatriates are returning to live here. But the number of overseas Vietnamese visiting for business or tourism have shot up -- about 270,000 last year, according to the Vietnamese government, triple the number that visited in 1990. Government officials say many of those people, like Nguyen, are deciding to stay. The reverse migration of young Vietnamese Americans would have been unimaginable even a decade ago. Their parents who escaped the Communist government after Saigon fell in 1975 still harbored deep bitterness. In Orange County's Little Saigon, where many rebuilt their lives, merchants still display the South Vietnamese flag. //

“Nguyen did not know what to expect when she arrived here. Her parents, who had escaped Vietnam after concluding it held no future for them, warned her not to go. But she argued that the country had drastically changed. Her parents relented. Nguyen was thrilled by the city and the electricity it radiated, a place where mopeds whizzed at all hours. She could walk outside and buy furry orange rambutan fruit from sidewalk peddlers. She spent weekends in nearby Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand. The job she found in the booming real estate industry was fast-paced, and the money was comparable to her U.S. salary. She met a large network of overseas Vietnamese and businesspeople who introduced her to even more opportunities. //

“After less than a year, Nguyen jumped into the fashion industry, becoming the chief operating officer of one of Vietnam's leading fashion retailers, Maison Co., which imports brands including Mango and Versace. She is considered a ranking corporate executive and travels frequently, from showrooms in Milan and Barcelona, and manages 250 employees. Such an opportunity, she said, would probably have been out of reach in the United States. //

John Ruwitch and Jason Szep of Reuters wrote: “Henry Nguyen, of IDG, is effusive about Vietnam's prospects but he isn't blind to the risks. His background gives him unique perspective. In 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War at age two, he fled the Communist invasion of South Vietnam with his family. He spent seven months in a refugee camp in the Philippines before moving to Virginia, where he grew up with little interest in his former homeland, answering his parents' Vietnamese with English and going on to Harvard University.[Source: John Ruwitch and Jason Szep, Reuters, January 13, 2011 ]

“He only returned in the mid-1990s, reluctantly, as a travel writer for the Harvard student-run Let's Go series. "I fell in love with the place," he said. After finishing medical and business school, he worked as a tech stock picker at Goldman Sachs in New York under famed Microsoft analyst Rick Sherlund, but soon felt the pull of Vietnam again. He returned in September 2001, arriving on the day the World Trade Center in New York was attacked. He watched the aftermath on TV, trying to contact friends. "I think something tripped inside me, and I thought maybe not living in the U.S. is not such a bad thing," he said. Three years later, he got an offer from Boston-based IDG's founder Pat McGovern to open shop in Vietnam. He now oversees two funds, one worth $100 million, the other $150 million. Not only did he fall in love with the country, Nguyen soon fell in love with, and in 2008 married, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's daughter.

Vietnamese-American Gangs

In the 1990s some Vietnamese- American youths became active in boy's and girl’s criminal youth gangs with names like "Santa Ana Boys," "Cheap Boys," "Wally Girls" and "Pomona Girls." Some of the members armed themselves with knives and guns and robbed homes and extorted money from merchants.

Vietnamese gangs in Silicon Valley have reportedly been involved in the theft of millions of dollar of computer chips. Many Vietnamese- American gangsters have ties to the South Vietnamese military. Vietnamese gangs in Vancouver have been involved with smuggling high- grade marijuana into the United States. They took over a market once controlled by the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang by using low-cost immigrant labor to do the grunt work and were not shy about resorting to violence and murder to outmuscle rivals. In many cases the Vietnamese gangs rented houses used to grow marijuana indoors and hired couples to water the plants until they were ready to harvest and export to the United States.

Vietnamese-American Gang Leader Admits Killing Three

In 2004, Leef Smith wrote in the Washington Post, "Reputed Asian street gang leader Cuong Gia Le admitted in federal court yesterday that he killed three people in Falls Church -- two at a restaurant and the third at a pool hall. In exchange for his cooperation with investigators, prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty in the slayings, which occurred over the last seven years. Le, 27, a native of Vietnam who told the court that he moved to the United States in the early 1990s, pleaded guilty to a total of nine counts in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The gang slayings at the Majestic Restaurant in 2001 and the Hi Au Pool hall four years earlier were characterized in court papers as retaliatory. Additional charges included attempted murder in aid of racketeering, firearms and racketeering. [Source: Leef Smith, Washington Post, October 9, 2004]

Prosecutors contend that Le, a former Springfield resident, and six other men committed the crimes, as well as home invasions and robberies in Virginia and Maryland, as part of an Asian racketeering organization known as the Oriental Playboys. The racketeering charge invokes the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which originally targeted organized crime. Recently the RICO Act has been used in efforts to dismantle street gangs. Investigators have said that the primary purpose of the gang was to make money through threats and acts of violence and robberies that targeted primarily Asian businesses. Le's conviction is the 16th resulting from a three-year investigation into the Oriental Playboys.

According to court documents, in October 2000 the defendants traveled from Northern Virginia to Baltimore County, where they robbed the residents of one house of $40,000 in cash and jewelry valued at $30,000. That same month, the documents said, they invaded a home in Fairfax County, where they forced the occupants into a bathroom while they stole electronic equipment, cash and other property.

According to court records, Le was associated with an Asian gang known as DF (also known as the Dragon Family or Dragon Fly) in 1997. On Jan. 26 of that year, investigators said that Le agreed to help a fellow gang member kill a rival. Together they went to the Hi Au Pool hall in the Eden Shopping Center in Falls Church and, armed with shotguns, killed Long Nguyen. Although Le was never charged in the slaying, it was among those he admitted to yesterday. Le was indicted by a federal grand jury in December in the slayings at the Majestic in which Long Phi Nguyen, 27, and Binh Anh Luu, 20, were shot to death as they stood outside the restaurant and exchanged angry words with Le. Two other people were wounded. Other defendants in the case helped Le avoid capture. He was a fugitive for more than two years before being captured in July 2003 near Seattle by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Vietnamese Man Throws Four Kids Off Bridge in Alabama

In 2008, Associated Press reported: "A Vietnamese man angered after a dispute with his wife confessed to tossing his four young children off a bridge, authorities as they searched murky waters for the bodies. Lam Luong, 37, who is charged with four counts of capital murder, told authorities night that he drove to the Dauphin Island bridge and dropped the children from a span that reaches 80 feet in places, said Detective Scott Rivera. Missing and presumed dead were 4-month-old Danny Luong; 1-year-old Lindsey Luong; 2-year-old Hannah Luong; and 3-year-old Ryan Phan. Phan is not the man's biological child, but Luong raised him from infancy, authorities said. [Source: Associated Press, January 9, 2008 |*|]

Luong came to coastal Alabama from Vietnam in 1984 and worked in the commercial fishing industry as a shrimper, Police Chief John Joyner and a relative said. He had argued with his wife, Ngoc Phan, before taking the children, he said. The couple lived with Phan's mother at Bayou La Batre, a fishing village with a large Southeast Asian community. Phan's brother-in-law Kam Phengsisomboun, who is from Thailand, said the couple moved back to the area from Hinesville, Ga., only a couple of weeks ago. They argued Sunday night and again Monday, he said. Luong left the home with two of the children, then later came back for the other two, he said. |*|

The family initially feared the children had been traded to support a drug habit, Phengsisomboun said. Luong had a crack cocaine habit and had spent an insurance settlement from an automobile accident rapidly, he said, and authorities confirmed Luong had a history of drug offenses. Luong reported the children missing Monday, and told police that a woman who had the children failed to return them, authorities said. Phengsisomboun said he was later told by investigators that a witness had seen someone throw a bundle from the bridge and then saw three children in a nearby car. Phan, 23, was in seclusion at her mother's brick home, the front porch cluttered with children's shoes. |*|

In 2013, Associated Press reported: "An Alabama appeals court has thrown out the conviction and death sentence of a man tried for killing four children in 2008 by throwing them off a coastal bridge. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Friday the trial of Lam Luong should have been moved outside of Mobile County because "publicity surrounding the murders completely saturated" the community. reports judges have sent the murder case back to Mobile County Circuit Court. Prosecutors say Luong killed the four children — whose ages ranged from 3 years to 4 months — by throwing them off the Dauphin Island bridge one-by-one and into the Mississippi Sound more than 80 feet below. [Source: Associated Press, February 16, 2013]

Binghamton Massacre Committed by Chinese-Vietnamese American

In April 2009, AP and reported: "Binghamton, N.Y., authorities called the gunman who shot 13 people dead at an immigration center a "coward" who planned to fight police but later changed his mind and committed suicide. Police Chief Joseph Zikuski identified the shooter as 41-year-old Jiverly Wong and said he had voluntarily changed his last name to Voong. "He arrived wearing body armor," the chief said. "At one point in his thinking process, he was going to take on police or at least stop them from stopping him. He must have been a coward. We speculate that when he heard the sirens, he decided to take his own life." Zikuski said Wong was depressed about his poor English-speaking skills, which he believed he was being teased about, and his recent unemployment. [Source: AP,, April 4, 2009]

People "degraded and disrespected" the gunman over his inability to speak English well, Zikuski said on NBC's "Today" show. "He was terminated from his job at a place called Shop-Vac, and he was very upset about that also," Zikuski told reporters at the press conference. Wong could not find work and complained that his unemployment benefit checks were only $200 a week, said Hue Huynh, a Binghamton grocery store proprietor whose husband worked with him years ago. Wong had driven a truck in California before recently returning to Binghamton, only to lose a job there, Huynh said. "He's upset he don't have a job here. He come back and want to work," she said. Her husband tried to cheer him by telling him he was still young and there was plenty of time to find work, but he complained about his "bad luck," she said.

A friend told The Associated Press that Wong was ethnically Chinese but from Vietnam. He was unmarried and lived with his mother, father and sister, the chief said. He had been taking classes until last month at the center where he committed the massacre, called the American Civic Association. Wong had a permit for the two handguns he used, Zikuski said. Most of the victims had multiple gunshot wounds, he said. Investigators said they had yet to establish a motive for the shooting.

Friends told the New York Daily News that he was a rage-filled loner who hated America and had an affinity for guns. He had a strong contempt for the United States and dreams of assassinating the president, said former Shop-Vac co-worker Kevin Greene. "I asked him if he liked the Yanks," Green told the newspaper, explaining the question was prompted by a New York Yankees T-shirt Wong was wearing. "He said, No I don't like that team. I don't like America. America sucks."

Greene worked with Wong at the Shop-Vac assembly plant in town until it shut down in November, the News reported. He used to joke with co-workers about Wong's fury, the paper said, and he told FBI investigators there was banter about how their angry fellow employee might "come in mad one day and shoot people. He seemed like that kind of a guy." Another former Shop-Vac worker, Donald Ackley, said Wong was often by himself but would make bizarre comments "like he wanted to kill the president." It wasn't clear whether he was referring to President Bush or President Obama.

Binghamton Massacre

In April 2009, AP and reported: On the day of the massacre :Wong — wearing a green nylon jacket and dark-rimmed glasses — barricaded the American Civic Association community center's back door with his car, walked in the front and started shooting with two handguns. The killer carried identification bearing the name Jiverly Voong. Within minutes, 13 people, including a receptionist and immigrants taking a citizenship class, as well as the gunman were dead. [Source: AP,, April 4, 2009]

Another receptionist, 61-year-old Shirley DeLucia, played dead after she was shot in the abdomen and called the emergency dispatcher to get police to the scene within two minutes. Zikuski said the injured receptionist stayed on the phone for 39 minutes, "feeding us information constantly," despite a serious wound in the abdomen. "She's a hero in her own right," he said.

DeLucia was in critical condition at a hospital, along with another victim in the same condition and a third in serious condition. A fourth victim was in stable condition at another hospital. Thirty-seven others made it out, including 26 who hid for hours in a basement boiler room while police tried to determine whether the gunman was still alive and whether he was holding any hostages, Zikuski said.

Wong was found dead in an office with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a satchel containing ammunition slung around his neck, authorities said. Police found two handguns — a 9 mm and a .45-caliber — and a hunting knife. A woman who answered the phone at a listing for Henry D. Voong said she was Jiverly Voong's sister but would not give her name. She said her brother had been in the country for 28 years and had citizenship.

The attack at the American Civic Association, which helps immigrants settle in this country, came just after 10 a.m. as people from all over the globe — Latin America, China, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Africa — gathered for English and citizenship lessons in an effort to become a bigger part of their new home. Wong parked his car against the back door before barging through the front and opening fire, apparently without saying a word. He then entered a room just off the reception area and fired on a citizenship class while terrified people scrambled into a boiler room and a storage room.

Abdelhak Ettouri, a Moroccan immigrant who lives in nearby Johnson City, told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin he found the back door locked when he tried to flee, then ran to hide in the basement as he heard 12 to 14 shots: "Tak-tak-tak-tak." Hoi Nguyen of Binghamton said his 36-year-old daughter Phuong Nguyen, who survived the massacre, was taking an English class in the basement when the gunfire started. "She said it sounded like a firecracker and everyone in the class was startled," he said. "Then the teacher locked the door, called the police, then told everyone they couldn't leave the room." Police arrived in minutes, heard no gunfire and waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers. They then spent two hours searching the building. They led a number of men out in plastic handcuffs while trying to sort out victims from the killer or killers.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993); New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

Last updated May 2014

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