BANGKOK, Thailand — Vietnam has agreed in principle to an airlift to the United States of thousands of Amerasians who were fathered by Americans during the Vietnam War and left to lives of poverty and discrimination, two U.S. congressmen said Wednesday.
Reps. Robert J. Mrazek (D-N.Y.) and Thomas J. Ridge (R-Pa.) said the agreement reached in Ho Chi Minh City this week "will result in a massive airlift of all Amerasian children from Vietnam," perhaps within two years.
The agreement with Vietnam's Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach would allow the estimated 8,000 to 12,000 Amerasians and 22,000 close relatives to fly to the United States after six months of language study and cultural orientation in the Philippines.
The congressmen said a final, detailed agreement will be worked out in talks beginning Feb. 4 in Vietnam. The U.S. delegation will be headed by Bruce Beardsley, director of U.S. refugee programs at the embassy in Bangkok.
The United States has resettled about 4,000 Amerasians under the United Nations-sponsored Orderly Departure Program for Vietnamese refugees and migrants.
Vietnam suspended the program in January, 1986, and demanded a quicker, bilateral program for resettling Amerasians. Hanoi recently resumed it after Washington agreed to change some procedures.
The congressmen, back from a four-day trip to Vietnam, said the new arrangement, creating a separate Amerasian program, is based on a bill signed into law Dec. 22.
The law calls for all Amerasians to be resettled in the United States within two years and creates a new category of immigrants, Amerasians, who had been leaving Vietnam as refugees. The congressmen said it makes eligible virtually any child with black or Caucasian features born during America's military involvement in Vietnam, which ended in late 1973.
Thach, who is also a deputy premier, pledged full commitment to the law.