After the Americans withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, in the latter half of the 1970s when there was a massive number of refugees fleeing Vietnam, my widowed dad and his three daughters were part of the latest wave of people fleeing Vietnam from the ravages of war. Refugees mainly went by boats and this group of refugees came to be known as “the boat people”.
During my perilous journey as an 8-year-old where we were blindfolded through the jungle so that in case we were captured, we could not reveal the underground smugglers or the route; where we stayed in a suffocatingly hot attic space at a half-way house with windows boarded up so we couldn’t identify where we were; where the boat we were in was so crammed with people, that my dad slept standing up holding to a pole and I slept holding and leaning onto his leg because there was no room to lie down; where we encountered pirates who took everyone’s possessions of gold or cash; where they would later begin raping women and killing innocent refugees who fought back; where an old woman died on our boat during our journey; where we ran long ran out of food after rationing and would later run out of water for several excruciating days; where our boat’s engine died leaving us to drift in the ocean where blue sky met the blue seas …. what was the most traumatic thing for my sisters and me? The one night when our father was taken from us and jailed by the local police. Of all the trauma, the separation from the only safe harbor we knew is still seared into me.
Refugees and immigrants do not leave their homes unless there are dire motivating factors. Think of how many Americans stay in their hometowns and never visit the other states or move unless a job required them to or for further education or a job. No one wants to leave home.
Do not be complicit and go along and not do something. You can do something. Help these children. Join us for a rally and let your voice be heard.
Elizabeth Immigration Detention Center
625 Evans St, Elizabeth, NJ
Sunday June 17th @ 9am
Uyen “Winn” Khuong
Executive Director, ATNJ