Starting Over In America
These refugees are a legacy of America's war in Southeast Asia. Today more than 300,000 refugees crowd into solid relocation camps or find temporary refuge along the war-tuned border with Thailand. Cambodian refugees are survivors of the massive U.S. bombing of their then-neutral nation. Survivors of the ruthless takeover by the communist Khmer Rouge in 1975. A four-year reign of terror when an estimated one-third of Cambodia's 7 million people died from execution, starvation, or disease. Survivors of the ongoing war-care between Vietnamese troops which ousted the Khmer Rouge and Cambodians fighting to regain their country.
Until thousands of Vietnamese list all for freedom, only to fall prey to pirates and the elements on the South China Sea. From neighboring Laos, flee once loyal U.S. allies. Their determination to endure has brought them this far. They now seek shelter from the storm. Many hope to find safe harbor in the United States, dreaming of building a better life for their children and starting over in America. Since 1975, more than 800,000 have come to the United States. In 10 years, the Dallas-Arias Southeast Asian community has swelled to 30,000, nearly one-third of the state's Southeast Asian population. Titt Runtam Samrit is a caseworker with the largest resettlement agency in the nation, run
by the United States Catholic Conference. Just December night with some of his friends, he's picking up the Maos, a Cambodian family of four. While the first wave of refugees in the 1970s brought the educated professional class, these newcomers arrive with little schooling and few skills of use in a high-tech society. Don't worry, if you study and work hard, you'll feel better. Yes, I want to get a job tomorrow. The challenge is formidable. Third-world farmers like the Maos, some illiterate in their own language, must learn to function in the world's most technically complex society. Do you have a headache now? Are you tired? Is it day or night? After we get in the car and go home, I'll give you some medicine. It's been an exhausting three-day trip halfway around the world. Day and night are reversed, nothing is familiar.
With all of their worldly belongings in one box, the Maos head out into below freezing weather. In Cambodia, the Maos cooked over a wood fire and drew water from a river. They have never seen a freeway or electric lights along a road. In the airplane, the city lights look like stars. Just wait until we get closer to Dallas, then you'll see all these lights and 70 and 80 story tall buildings. Look at the cars. This freeway is busy 24 hours and you see those lights, those are cars that are coming toward us. See, they're coming this way while we're going the other way. See the city? Look at all the buildings. These buildings are made of glass.
Why don't you look out too? Seeing all this makes me so happy. I've never seen anything like this. It's so exciting. It's like going up to heaven to see all these two and three and four hundred story tall buildings. I'm so happy that I'm here. That's why everybody wants to come to America. It's just like going to heaven. The U.S. Catholic Conference and other voluntary agencies receive federal funds to help resettle refugees. Two hundred and fifty dollars per person must pay for rent, food, blankets, sheets and kitchenware. Come on in, it's warm. The stove, refrigerator, running water and toilet are foreign to the mouse.
You turn this knob down to make it less hot. See, it's just like taking some wood out of your fire back home. When you want the water to boil, turn the knob all the way until the water bubbles up, just like this. Let's go over here. I'll show you the bathroom. When you finish using the toilet, press this handle. Is this where you take a bath? Yes, this is where you take a bath and I'll buy you a curtain. You tie it up like this and you hang the towels here. When you turn the water on, remember the left side is hot. Why don't you sit down and rest? Well I'm going now, both of you get some sleep and remember, be sure and lock the door. It's important to lock the door.
The relief agencies relocate most of the new arrivals in inner city East Dallas. Four thousand southeast agents, most of them Cambodian, live in a one square mile area dubbed Little Asia. Unlike the western east coast, what large Asian communities have flourished since the 1800s. Dallas's little Asia didn't exist 10 years ago.
Asian Americans are suddenly Dallas's third largest minority. This neighborhood is the most international and ethnically diverse section of the city. Much of the housing in the low income, high crime area is both substandard and overpriced. To make ends meet, refugees often pull resources as many as three families share a one bedroom apartment. But there are a few apartment complexes willing to rent to large refugee families at all. The Lun family arrived in Dallas in 1981, a typical Cambodian family starting over in America.
Their present living quarters are a step up from the one bedroom unit the 10 member family used to rent. But for the past three weeks, eight of them have been sleeping in the living room, waiting for the manager to fix the ceiling in one of their two bedrooms. Water leaking from the apartment upstairs has ruined the carpet and mattresses. Pon Lume, once a captain in the Cambodian army, now works as a roofer. He's the sole breadwinner in the soon to be 12 member family, insisting that his children go to school rather than work. This morning, his wife so porn is having labor pains. The next day, she'll deliver their eighth child. Fifteen-year-old Chantoon, who calls herself Christina, serves as her parents' main interpreter. As in most refugee families, the children shoulder great responsibility, dealing with banks,
apartment managers, and social service agencies for their parents, who speak little or no English. The younger boys, Boontan, age 11, and Boonsita, age 9, remember a little of the country in which they were born. Like their peers, they've most easily adopted American ways and are regularly on their schools on our roads. Christina and her older brother, Vani, still find schools somewhat difficult. Under the Khmer Rouge, children were separated from their parents and forced to work. For many, like these two, formal education begins in America. The first time I went to school, I didn't know anybody at all. I didn't speak any English at all. And I was afraid of black people, white people, because I was the only Cambodian. And now we've been here about four years, and I feel comfortable feeling good, fresh,
a lot better than I've been in America. Mr. Moon is also faring better, earning $9.20 an hour supervising this Cambodian work crew. But during the winter, when work is slow, he's lucky to bring home enough to meet their $350 monthly rent and their $230 carpane. One family, households like the Looms, are the most likely to fall below the poverty line. The $270 worth of food stamps they receive stand between them and hunger. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study, two-thirds of all Southeast Asian refugees hold low wage, low skill jobs. The study found the language barrier is a major factor in keeping refugees from advancing. Yet only 10% of the refugees in Texas are on welfare.
The praise from Moon's boss is typical of the comments made by employers who hire refugees. He's a very good man. I would describe them as being extremely loyal, very hardworking, and most trustworthy. The refugees also receive high marks in the classroom. Buntan and Bonsita, like many immigrant children, are driven to excel and to make good on the promise of America. A recent University of Michigan study found that nationwide, Southeast Asian refugees children have an academic average slightly above a B. More than a quarter score in the top 10% on national standardized math tests. The traditional Asian respect for learning is matched by a strong dedication to the family. Everybody wants to come to America, but it's very difficult.
Most people died trying to come here. I came so my children could have a chance to study. My children are doing fine, but I feel so upset that I don't know anything. So I'm happy that we're here in America, so my children can gain knowledge and be anything they want to. Mrs. Lung's third daughter, Chantidav, was born on November the 6th, 1985. She is their third child born in this country and an American citizen. Local nursing professor in Vietnam veteran Charles Cam, sees that Mrs. Lung and many other refugees receive needed medical attention. Cam is one of the founders of the East Dallas Health Coalition, which runs a neighborhood clinic for low income families. Everything okay? No diarrhea? No. No cold?
No. Okay. All right. How's the job? Yeah. Good. Good. Are you getting enough hours? It's really cool. That's really nice. Yeah. It's really cool. How many people are working? One. One? Just two. Very good. I love a lot of people when one person is working in the field. Yeah. You're making the sky go to school, aren't you? Yeah. People have risked everything to get here. They've given up everything. They have not taken the easy road. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives and come in here and I feel in obligation, I feel an honor to be able to spend some time with them, to be able to get them the hand. Cam and his students from Texas Women's University make weekly rounds in Little Asia, where language, money, and transportation walk many of the refugees out of the local health care system. Their general health is poor. They're tired, they've been through more than people can go through.
They've been starved, they've had a lot of sickness, they've had a lot of trauma, a lot of physical trauma, a lot of psychological trauma, and they're not in good shape when they arrive. The students have just made a profound difference, and they're going from door to door and finding out what the problems are. Your baby looks good, but I'm sorry you feel so bad. If she starts having fever or having drainage at the nipples, she needs to make an appointment sooner because she may be developing an infection. Because you have that ten or four room left for COVID-19. Before, none of them will be in seen by physicians. So we're getting them in, we're getting them taken care of, and the babies are going to be healthier. And the mothers are going to be healthier, and so they're going to have a chance to start out healthy rather than starting out sick. According to a recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 45% of the refugees suffer from severe psychological distress.
This widow is, she and her son are the sole survivors of their family. She has severe headaches. She's had them since 1978 when the Khmer Rouge put a plastic sack overhead and beat her. They thought until she was dead, but she didn't die. She's really struggling. How much rice does she have now? A little bit. Enough for one meal or two meals? Three meals worth of rice. Does she have any chicken or pork? I mean, it goes at one or two, and then the third meal, and then it goes at one or another, so I'm going to put one leg. One leg? From a chicken? Mm-hmm. I will come back today, okay? Late this afternoon and help you. They're afraid to complain because they don't know how much power the sponsor does or doesn't have, and some people are afraid that they'll be sent back.
Why does the case, why does the case worker talk loud to you? Okay. This is someone who looks like me and looks like loud to her, she gets scared. Is someone else at her? She got scared? Yeah, that's maybe the case worker. Okay. Okay. I'm going to come back this afternoon to help you, okay? They're sitting on, at times, unbelievable problems and not saying anything.
When we think about who's reached out in this city, we see that the churches have reached out, and the Jewish community has reached out. Both Jews and Cambodians have been through a Holocaust, and there's an understanding there that nobody else can have. Nobody else can understand that I can't and you can't. And somebody who's seen the unrelenting horror of it, I think, can begin to appreciate the strength and beauty of these people that are in our city. 17-year-old Sarat St grew up during the cataclysm that killed an estimated two million of his people.
Each Cambodian family suffers the grief of having lost loved ones to the brutal Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Paul Pot. One time I saw the Paul Pot soldiers taking all the freedom fighting soldiers, they killed them all, sometimes hanging them on the trees. This painting also reminds me of my mother, when the soldiers took her and tied her to a tree and killed her. The reason that killed my mother is one time she was walking and saw just a piece of red pepper that the cows had stepped on. She picked it up and the soldiers accused her of stealing it. That's why they took my mother and tied her up against a tree and killed her.
These ancient temple ruins on Goat symbolize the spirit of Cambodia and its people. Sarat's memories of tragedy are intertwined with memories of beauty, some sit on the river, harvesting rice, trips to the marketplace. The closest thing the refugees have found to their own native markets is this Medicado in the body of West Dallas. Here immigrants from Asia, mingle with those from Latin America, together these new arrivals from the Third World, outnumber Europeans coming from the Old World, making up nearly three
force of all legal immigration to the U.S. It is an historic shift in the pattern of immigration to this country which is changing the face of America. Today cities like Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles are the destination for this newest wave of immigrants. The West and Southwest have replaced the eastern seaboard as the region of the future. For Case Worker, Tip Bantan Somrit and the other members of his household, this market offers bargain prices, fresh produce, and a taste of home. This market will remind me since I was in Cambodia, we have some kind of market like this. We don't have a big store in this country. In my country we sell like this. They have a market, everybody they sell some kind of stuff in the same thing like this. And then we like it.
Somrit and 13 other people share this rented house in East Dallas. In their backyard they prepare a meal the traditional way, using the Cambodian herbs and vegetables they've grown along with a freshly killed chicken. In our country we live in close to the farm. If we don't grow any kind of vegetable at the backyard, if we need it we can go to get from another neighborhood to another neighborhood. And then we miss a lot of things because living in here, even we are Cambodian and most old neighborhood living on my right hand side and back hand side. There are more than we never communicate with them.
They never talk to us because actually when they get off from work they just get inside the house and they lock the door. In Cambodia we open all the door, all the door we can go to see them anytime. For those who've survived the bloodbath in Cambodia there is joy in the simple sharing with family and friends. At every meal Somrit pays homage to his own magic teacher, his guidance he believes shielded him from harm. Every time when I eat I set aside the plate for my teacher and almost all the time every day. I do it almost 25 years already and then I still keep doing it like this until I die. Southeast Asians use magic amulets, tattoos and charms to ward off disease, bad spirits and the evils of war.
With the rise of the latest repressive regimes, they were also valued as protection against the atrocities of soldiers and police. That's me, that's my partner, my partner. Corporal Ron Coward, a Dallas Police Department's liaison with the Asian community, wants to turn around this fear of people in uniform. Their country's persons who spoke out were killed, a lesson not easily forgotten. Along with the language barrier, this reluctance to cause trouble to even report crime makes refugees easy prey. It's a victimization Coward has witnessed before. He served with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam. All at Vietnam in 1969, no one wanted to know your experiences, no one wanted to know anything at all about Vietnam. As a matter of fact, they did everything they could to shame me for that. There was no one to talk to, literally about it. I joined the police department and put it all behind me. And then 15 years later I noticed the refugee community building up over here.
As I answered calls in these apartment complexes, I saw the same faces that I had left behind. And what sounds corny, but you know my heart just became bigger and I thought so many times it would just break from the hardships that these people are encountering. And I felt like I'm part of them and they're part of me. And I also love this police department, I've been here for 17 years. And that I want to see the two entities that I care about come together. They are coming together with a hiring of three Southeast Asian public service officers. The only PSOs ever to undergo regular police training. Under Coward's supervision, they work to reduce crime and ease their people's transition to this foreign land. Towel Dom served with the South Vietnamese Army, 80 displaced civilians.
Under the fall of Saigon, he spent five years in Vietnamese labor and concentration camps. Potay and his family fled the killing fields of Cambodia in 1979. The ten members of his family were spared the fate of many of their traveling companions killed by landmines, soldiers or exhaustion during their escape across the mountain trails. Kivole, a Buddhist monk by training, first came to the United States in 1974 to work as a missionary. He's now the vice president of the Laotian Community Association and editor of its newsletter. On this day, they're helping out with Coward's favorite project, the first all-South East Asian explorers post in the nation, teenage refugees, including artist Sarat Sen, are learning about American law enforcement. One group of put the drills in, the other group will be giving clothing out.
It was their idea in the begin with to do something about the security in these apartments because of the crime. And we started going around putting peepoles in the doors. It gave them a chance to speak in their own ethnic languages to a refugee, to a family and tell them we would like to place a peephole in your door so that you can look out the door and see who's there. So we could better protect you. It gave them a feeling of self-confidence. The people that responded to them felt like these are good boys. But life is still difficult for these children of war. In East Dallas, they share turf with others who must struggle for survival. The recent explosion in immigration, the economic competition with other American workers, and the trade deficit with Japan, all fuel racism,
which lumps Asians together in one stereotype group. It's a melting pot ready to boil over. Like, we were here first. I mean, also, this is Japanese taking over everywhere. Yeah, it's like they just all taking over. I mean, even while there's a whole bunch of people. I get pretty mad because I mean, it's just taking up the wall. Well, the government has taken their side more than they should do. Like, we might need it more, but then, you know, he'll go to the end before he comes to us. Like, their family don't have to pay anything. That's what I didn't like about it, you know. The government pays for everything they have. They're cars, most of their clothes. The stores that they have, the government, they're bigger than our stores. Sometimes you come outside, and they're not all around. They're just, they don't sit.
They just sit on their hind legs, and they have the finest mails they're eating up. Ugly looking food, and it's not, you know, too pleasant. The day the truth, the first time I saw the video, I looked at everything, wasn't it? I might have saw him over the side of my rifle, you know. He might've been the one who shot me. There's tension between Asians and Hispanics that the apartment complex with a loon's limb. Their new neighbor, a Vietnamese woman, spending her second night in America, was raped in her apartment by an Hispanic man. Have everybody's attention? Ron Coward calls a meeting in an attempt to cool the anger on all signs. Communication is difficult. Everything must be translated into five languages. Whether we are Asian, or whether we are Hispanic, or whether we are Anglo, we're all victims of a criminal element who is coming out here,
and burgerizing, robbing, stealing, and raping us. And together, together, we're going to work to eliminate this. Are we going to do it? I'd like to ask from some of you before we start, if you have any particular problems that could start us off. Pan Loom is the first to speak up. Tell me what the problem is. He said before he'd walk out the door, and his Hispanic came and kid him down, and one time the Hispanic tried to get a knife and stab him. All right, very good, outstanding. Okay, let me have everyone's attention. The problem that I have just received from the Hispanic community that lives here
is that they have people that they know of that are coming over here, that are not friends of theirs, who are coming over and making life miserable for everyone, and they are trying to control this. Am I right? It's very important that you understand this. I would like to have one leader from every group here, one Cambodian, one Vietnamese, and one Lao, and one Hispanic. I would like for each one of these people to make a list of the grievances, and the complaints that they feel. For this area here, if you have a problem that hurts the Cambodian community, I want you to find this man, and let this man call the police. This area here is a powder care, I think. The City of Dallas takes a great amount of pride in showcasing to the rest of the United States,
the fact that we have not had any serious confrontations racially, but I think that this area of town, East Dallas, particularly here in the Southeast Asian refugee community, is very ripe for something like this to occur in the future. The image of refugees is not only economic rivals, but sometimes superiors also stirs resentment. Yeah, of course, I think the agents are taking job from America. Of course that, because you can see that many of the people now that we have in the city, as I was stating earlier, that they're working for this wages, you know. A lot of times they'll American people seem to feel that we have them work for us because we pay them less. That's not true, and I'd venture to say, the most the time they actually give us a better day worked than what the American person does.
No, I'm taking jobs out of taking advantage of it. The Americans of a lower class has been, it's been second-fiddle to them. We're second-fiddle to them now. There's nothing we can, there's nothing Americans can do about it. The fear of cheap foreign labor as roots stretching back to the late 1800s when Chinese were made scapegoats for the economic depression on the West Coast. In Texas, a July 1870 edition of the Dallas Herald described the Chinese and Japanese as miserable yellow imbecile dwarfs. In many states, discrimination against Asians was not only the rule, but the law. When an Irish railroad worker murdered a Chinese laborer in West Texas, the famous judge Roy Bean found that there was no Texas law against killing a Chinaman. Violence against Asians erupted across the nation. In 1885, miners and Wyoming murdered 28 Chinese
and burned hundreds out of their homes, and the Asian riots lasted an entire month. In Seattle, it took federal troops to halt the mass murder of the city's Chinese. Attacks and riots also broke out in Idaho, Colorado, and Alaska. In 1982, a resurgence of anti-Asian sentiment claimed the life of 27-year-old Chinese American Vincent Chin in Detroit. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat by an unemployed auto worker and his stepson who thought Chin looked Japanese. In Boston, a Cambodian man was murdered by a gang of whites after a minor traffic incident. It was one of a series of violent acts against Asians in Massachusetts in 1985. And along the Gulf Coast of Texas, relations between Vietnamese and Anglo-Shruppers remain tense six years after gunfire first broke out in a continuing dishing dispute. Ironically, hostility is increasing, even though Asian Americans are hailed as the nation's
model minority. According to the 1980 census, Asian Americans have a higher median income, lower unemployment rate, and are better educated than any other ethnic group in the country. One-third of all adult Asian Americans have four or more years of college, compared to one-sixth of adult whites. But the numbers can be deceiving. Behind the income statistics is the reality that Asians have more workers per household and must spread their earnings among more family members. And while some excel educationally, the percentage of Asians with less than five years of schooling is twice the national average. Many have succeeded, but many still struggle for survival. The Dom family fits into the refugee success story America loves to display.
Dr. Fop Dom and his wife Lily Dom come from the elite educated class in Vietnam. They met while both were attending American universities. In April 1975, they were in the first wave to flee their country's besiege capital. He was the dean of the School of Languages at the University of Saigon. She taught English at the Bicultural Center. Today, Dr. Dom directs the English as a second language program for the Dallas School District, and Lily Dom is a teacher. Their youngest daughter is a straight-a student at Skyline High School, and the two older daughters attend Southern Methodist University on scholarships. But the Dom's clearly recognized the advantages they have had. The public here tends to neglect the failure rates among the Asian students. As an educator here in Dallas, I know that a number of Asians are dropping out of school, out of frustration. They want to succeed, but their English is inadequate,
and they don't understand the lessons, so they get failing grades, and frustration leads to dropping out. The highest dropout rate is among Asians, the children of mixed parentage, outcast in the land of their birth. They have special problems here. Many of them come here when they are teenagers, because you don't have many young kids among these, and it's a lot harder for them to learn English as a second language. And then because of their look also, it becomes a problem within the school. On campus, many of them look more like Americans than Vietnamese, so the American kids would think that their Americans start speaking English to them. And when they find out that they cannot speak English, then they ridicule them. And because of that, these kids are having a lot of emotional problems. At the same time, they are having school problems.
At Spence Middle School in East Dallas, where Lily Dom teaches, circumstances are forcing refugees to learn how to assert their rights in the American system. Refugee children have had trouble obtaining tickets for federally subsidized school lunches. Two months into the school year, many are going through the entire day without food. Which is, they just sit there and watch the others eat. What can they do? He says, what can he do? He said, if he doesn't have a ticket to eat, how can he study? He's too weak. After going with our lunch. The official reason why children were denied lunch tickets is the language barrier. Parents haven't filled out the application forms correctly or on time,
but there is considerable evidence that the problem is much more than red tape. Well, we've had the problem around here for three years. And I was very severely reprimanded last year when I was concerned about students who were not eating. I was told that it was none of my business. If a child in this school went hungry, I was told this by the principal. Jerry England, an industrial arts teacher, started teaching at Spence in 1957. Two other teachers and two school employees confirmed Refugee children have had serious problems with the lunch program for three years. Another employee was so upset she called the news media. Only England is willing to appear on camera. The other's fear they'll lose their jobs. I have seen it happen. I have been in the office when children walked in and they were screened. Don't come in here and ask me for another ticket. You have no right to come in here, third period. You know, get out of this place. The person who takes care of the lunch program in
this school, that's the only job they have or that is their main, their main job description. They're supposed to be doing this job and often they're out of pocket. They're not where they're supposed to be so anyone can reach them and then on the other hand they make the children feel horrible. England has seen refugee children without tickets attempt to go through the lunch line. Children have gone through the line and gotten a lunch. They took the lunch away from the child. The lunch would sit over on the counter because the child was not entitled to it. And then after the lunch period was over they'd take the lunch and scrape it out into the garbage. Or they have on occasion even done this so that the child could see it and this is this is really terrible. The kids didn't have the public service officers and Ron coward. Meet with school principal Dr. Tony Polis to discuss complaints they received about the lunch program. I heard some kids said to me that maybe the food is taken back and maybe
told the garbage and they don't know why. I am sorry we do not do that. Excuse me, it's my phone. There's also pressure from above. A phone call from an assistant superintendent. Yes sir. I think we've got it partially resolved. The Asian Committee is in my office and we have a TV person here as well and we have agreed to have a meeting with the parents tomorrow evening. We're going to send notices this afternoon and it is all a communications problem Dr. Reed. To solve that communications problem the DISD had its lunch application forms translated into Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian. That was three years ago. But it spaced the middle school with the largest Southeast Asian population only English Spanish versions have been used.
At the beginning of last year one of our clerks from the main office went over to fanat school and got some of the applications which are written in Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian and brought them back thinking this would help in getting the lunch applications home to the Asian children and they were never used and at one point I asked Dr. Polis if we could use them and he said that we could not use them because they were illegal. England says she has repeatedly complained to DISD officials but the problem continued. The DISD says it investigated the matter and found no problem. Dr. Polis refused to answer any questions about the charges on or off camera. He did however deny doing anything wrong and threatened to file suit if we broadcast anything negative about him. The parents meeting held October 17 was a public event. Some of our children have not been able to eat during the lunch hour because we did not have
applications on the youngsters. Dr. Fath Dom maintains a delicate balance. Tonight the community leader and DISD administrator represents the school system. His brother Tao Dom and the other PSOs represent the parents. Dr. Polis begins by explaining how to fill out the forms. Questions follow. Yesterday she didn't have ticket and she came to ask the lady said that she missed Sally and she saw get out. It was announced on the speaker system that they were all to come to the cafeteria and all had to do with sign their name. You were here when that occurred the other day. I'll see you later. Once the last week. All of that has been resolved and now what we're doing now is losing dignity.
I do not believe that this is worth it at all. If we're going to turn this into a gripe session, we are the losers ourselves and so are our children. I do believe we should keep our dignity. Potai ask why food trays have been snatched away from children. You were operating on hearsay. I'm really sorry. But you were wrong. Well, he's saying he is and he is. Unless you see it, children. Unless you see it, it did not happen, sir. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I would like to tell you and these parents something. I won't believe all that the kids tell us about your home. If you don't believe everything, they tell you about our school. After an hour, the meeting ends with some conciliatory words from Dr. Dom.
Well, thank you very much for your comment. Like I said, this is a free country and if your children feel that they've been abused, then you as parents, you certainly can come and voice a concern. And we as administrators in the school district will have to respond. And we thank you for coming here in force like this and we hope that we can work together to find a solution to this problem. Thank you very much. On the Monday following this meeting, an additional 123 children received lunch tickets. The clerk who was handling the lunch program has been transferred to the attendance office. Applications in the Asian languages are available and a recent check indicates the children are being fed. It is a victory for the refugee community. To help the newly arrived refugees and to protect the civil rights of all Southeast Asians,
each of the three nationalities has formed a mutual assistance association. In Dallas, the Vietnamese community is holding its first election. The refugees are coming of age, but as they adjust to life in America, they face the challenge of holding on to their identity. We've been telling our children that they should draw from both cultures. Both cultures have a lot to offer them. We want them to be proud to be Asians, you know, that the Southeast Asian heritage is a great one. If children don't have a self-respect or a self-esteem, or if they do not value their heritage, then they don't do well in society. I will continue to teach my children a little bit about Cambodia each day, especially the younger ones. It's important to do this since there are so few Cambodians left.
Traditional celebrations play a key role in preserving Asian roots. Some compromises are inevitable, for example, Cambodian weddings, which traditionally lasted three days, no less than one. At the Laotian Temple, Buddhist rituals help maintain a sense of continuity. This singer, well-known and Vietnam, entertains the Dallas Vietnamese community organization.
In Southeast Asia, the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians have been bitter enemies. Each country has its own language, traditions, and customs. In Dallas, circumstances have forged an alliance. This ceremony, opening the first Southeast Asian police storefront in the nation, also symbolizes the collaboration of the three refugee communities in Dallas. From this storefront in East Dallas, the PSOs and Ron Coward will tackle everything from robberies and assaults to the growing problem of organized Asian crime. But one of the toughest issues is domestic violence. The financial and psychological stress of starting over is a strain on refugee families.
These two women have come to a community leader's apartment to call the police. This woman left home several months ago to stay with a friend because her husband was beating her. When he tried to bring her back, they ended up in a fight, and he entered both women. I can understand that. I can understand her being ashamed. But what he has done to her is wrong. And I think if he sees that we can put him in jail, that he may change his mind. She said when she left home, she tried to take some children out with her,
but the husband said if you dare to take any of the children, he will shoot her. He will kill her right there. Let's go over and talk to him. I think when he sees what can happen to him, I think he will have a change of heart. Many refugees used to suffer in silence, but since the hiring of the public service officers, they have begun to trust the police. If you want her back, she can come back if she wants to. But if you lay one hand on her and if you hit her one time, we're going to take you out of this apartment and put you in a jail sale. If she is just feeling out of way to not to think about it, because now they're mad.
If he wants to keep the kids to not, let him keep the kids to not to think about it, to think of something that he may lose. Tell her to take his hand and you give me his word that he will not bother her just one night. You come back more than one night. Okay, give me your hand. Can you spend one night away? Okay, one night. One night. One night. You come back more than one night. Okay, all right. Okay, give me your hand. Can you spend one night away? Okay, one night. Okay, I'm going to touch how long I did that. Okay, let me see your other hand. Okay, okay, all right, all right, all right, okay. Hard times have also hit Sarat Singh's family.
The weekend after Christmas of fire destroyed their house. Several hours before the blaze, a man was murdered in the apartment upstairs. The fire began four hours after the police left the scene. Sarat's family lost everything, but they are survivors of the inferno of war. They are determined to rise from the ashes of this setback as they have so many times before. The refugees find America, despite the difficulties, a haven. They are grateful for the refuge. But like many first-generation refugees, they will always think of their homeland. I love this country, yes, but sometimes I feel like a stranger, like an outsider. But in Vietnam, I would feel that I mean the right environment, like the fish in the water. I love the air, I love the landscapes, I love the friends I have in Vietnam,
and I love the food that the people prepare in Vietnam. I miss everything about Vietnam. There's something very special about your native land. Sometimes you cannot describe it, you know, just being there makes you very happy, very pleased. There is division in the Lone family about whether to make the United States their permanent home. Pa Nguyen still wants to return and help free Cambodia from Vietnamese control. Buntan is eager to follow. My friend, cousin, my uncle and all that, told me to go back and defeated them, bad people. May, I want to stay all the rest of my life in the United States.
Because, you know, I was afraid like if in Cambodia they have, you know, fighting like, you know, war, this happened again, this time I don't want to go back. I want to stay here. You arrival Mau Loon has found work at the Posh Mansion Hotel in Dallas. He has come a long way from that cold December night when he and his family saw their first freeway and big city lights. I'm still worried about my family, worried that we don't have enough money for rent. But I'm going to work hard and study hard and I have hope that my children will have a bright future. The resettlement of these Southeast Asians is the latest chapter in the continuing story of this nation of immigrants.
Each new wave tests our convictions, compassion and memory. For most of our ancestors too, came seeking safety, freedom and opportunity. Their lives are an affirmation of the strength and resiliency of the human spirit. We have much to learn from them. The fulfillment of the promise of America is our challenge as well as theirs. From Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, they come to a new frontier, settling in Texas cities and towns
to rebuild war-shattered lives. Meet the newest Americans, Southeast Asian refugees determined to persevere in the nation that is for more than two centuries called itself the land of opportunity. Don't miss this KERA Special Report starting over in America.
- Starting Over In America
- Producing Organization
- Contributing Organization
- The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
- KERA (Dallas, Texas)
- AAPB ID
- Program Description
- Documentary from 1986 presents the stories of Vietnam War refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia who relocated to the Dallas area beginning in 1975. Encompasses the cultural, economic, physical and racial challenges they encountered and overcame while assimilating into their new homes.
- Program Description
- This item is part of the Southeast Asian Americans section of the AAPI special collection.
- Created Date
- Asset type
- Vietnam War Refugees
- Media type
- Moving Image
Director: Martin, Ginny
Executive Producer: Matthews, Stan
Interviewee: Coward, Ron
Narrator: O'Shea, Michael
Producer: Komatsu, Sylvia
Producer: Hudson, LeRoy
Producing Organization: KERA
Speaker: Polis, Tony
Speaker: Kemp, Charles
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the
University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-d57b523b043 (Filename)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-7f1b9103da9 (Filename)
Format: 1 inch videotape: SMPTE Type C
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Starting Over In America,” 1986-02-06, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, KERA, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-d795718t0g.
- MLA: “Starting Over In America.” 1986-02-06. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, KERA, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-d795718t0g>.
- APA: Starting Over In America. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, KERA, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-526-d795718t0g