Transpacific Sexism and Racism: The U.S. Amerasian Act of 1982 and 1987

Between 1962-1975, an estimated 40,000 babies were born in Southeast Asia, who were fathered by U.S. servicemen.

In most, if not all of the Pacific nations, mixed-race babies born to U.S. servicemen, are not considered citizens of local countries, and therefore outside of the benefits and protections provided to the mainstream citizens.  Race and nation and gender become very much a part of both the mothers and the children themselves.

In almost every case, children born to African-American servicemen, are stigmatized by the notion of blackness-as-inferior.  If the occupation, or presence of U.S. soldiers over a long period of time, involves a history of war on their land, then the stigma of being the “enemy” child intensifies the resentment.  This gives rise to the intense political, social, and psychological fabric of Pacific life.  This is also a question of the memory of the United States as a country in these nations, as well as the maintenance of the control of women’s bodies, and the sequestering and control of “impure blood” elements of what nationalism often requires.

Black Amerasians and Euro-Amerasians from Vietnam celebrate their heritage in San Jose. 2009. Courtesy of Catherine Karnow,

In 1982, the United States passed the Amerasian Immigration Act allowing children from Vietnam, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, without mothers present, or siblings, to immigrate to the United States and be adopted by American families.  However, the Vietnamese government resisted this act and did not publicize this new law/act.   It is because the mixed-race orphans fathered by American GIs in the Pacific, were considered a “bad element” of Vietnamese society and the law was too limited, not allowing single mothers and families stigmatized by Vietnamese society, to leave Vietnam.

In other words, Vietnam wanted as many of these “Children of the Dust” to be gone.

In 1987, the United States Congress passed the Amerasian Homecoming Act.  This law focused primarily on Vietnamese Amerasian children. It would permit mothers and other immediate family members to relocate to America  with the Amerasian children.

Between 1987 and 1994, over 25,000 Vietnamese Amerasians, by then between 12-25 years old, and  60,000 to 70,000 family members of these Amerasians, immigrated to the United States. The largest portion of them settled in California.

It is interesting to note that the original Amerasian Act did not include children who were fathered by U.S. servicemen in Okinawa, Japan and the Philippines, even though the social issues and intensity of the realities created were just as important.  One must question the politics of Japan and the Philippines in relation to the United States at the time these laws are passed.  It is true that people–yes, even children and women, are pawns in geopolitical games.  Beyond this, what kind of social justice actions must we take?  If the U.S. military and Pacific national governments will only maintain their identities through their privileges and prejudices, how will social change come about?


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