Four members of Rep. Robert K. Dornan's staff, including a Vietnamese-American aide who left Saigon the day before its fall 13 years ago, are leaving today for Vietnam in an effort to reunify families with their relatives in Orange County.
"The main purpose of this trip is to ask the Vietnamese to cooperate more fully with the orderly departure program, with family reunification cases and with political prisoners," said Brian Bennett, Dornan's chief of staff.
Dornan (R-Garden Grove), who has made two trips to Vietnam, is spending the congressional recess campaigning for Vice President George Bush's bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Bennett said Dornan plans to make another trip to Vietnam later this year.
Bennett said that while the group of aides will inquire about MIA and POW GIs, the primary purpose of the trip is "to get many emergency and family hardship cases brought to the attention of the Vietnamese officials and ask them to consider granting exit permits."
The group will have in hand case files of 600 individuals, brought to their attention mostly by Vietnamese families in the county. They will also have a list of about 50 people who, for age or health reasons, are considered emergency cases by families asking that they be allowed to come to the United States.
Bennett said the trip was planned because, "We have always found that when congressional delegations go over to Vietnam and present government officials in Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with these special hardship cases, that two to three months afterwards they end up releasing a great many of these people."
He said Dornan's 38th District, which has the largest concentration of Vietnamese Americans in the country, also provides the State Department with the greatest number of pleas for Vietnamese to be allowed into the United States to be with relatives.
Dornan's local field representative, Xuan-Nhi Van Ho, who left Vietnam on April 29, 1975, said it has been his dream since then to return.
"I miss the country a lot," he said. "I have a little bit nervous, and mostly I'm very excited. . . . Until I land in the country, and I know for sure that my dream has come true, well. . . ."
He added, "I'll tell you more when I come back."