Resettling Vietnamese Refugees in the United States

Resettling Vietnamese Refugees in the United States

What steps did the Ford Administration take to relocate South Vietnamese refugees following the Vietnam War?


6 - 12


Social Studies, U.S. History

By the time President Gerald R. Ford took office in 1974, the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War had been radically reduced. In 1975, however, renewed fighting saw communist-supported North Vietnamese forces pushing closer to Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, which was still a U.S. ally. Saigon, later called Ho Chi Minh City, would soon fall to the North and the process of reunifying Vietnam would begin.

President Ford acknowledged the serious human rights issues facing many South Vietnamese residents. These included forced relocation, being held as political prisoners, and even death. Many abandoned their homes and sought asylum and refugee status in the United States and other Western nations. To pave the way for the refugees’ arrival, Ford gathered a coalition of church groups, southern Democratic governors, labor leaders, and the American Jewish Congress to secure housing and jobs.

Several airlifts were organized to bring Vietnamese refugees and asylum-seekers to the U.S. Close to 120,000 were rescued and relocated following the war. Ford stated, “[T]o ignore the refugees in their hour of need would be to repudiate the values we cherish as a nation of immigrants, and I was not about to let Congress do that.”

Fast Fact

  • At the end of the war, the evacuation of thousands of infants and children from South Vietnam to the United States and other countries was known as Operation Babylift.

Fast Fact

  • President Ford welcomed South Vietnamese refugees personally in San Francisco upon their arrival.

Fast Fact

  • Refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand also came to the United States after the end of the Vietnam War.
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Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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Related Resources

Ford Foundation
National Geographic Channel