The Conversation

Gov. Jerry Brown 1975: Don't 'Dump Vietnamese' Refugees on California

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown once fought to keep out South Vietnamese refugees from being delivered to his state during his first stint as governor of California in the 1970’s. Although he remains silent on the crisis that is happening on the southern border of his state, Brown’s position via legislation previously signed regarding illegal immigrants from Mexico Central America and South America is more favorable than the cool response he gave to the Vietnamese refugees who had escaped the tyrannical Viet Cong.

In 1975, Jerry Brown complained, that the federal government wanted to “dump Vietnamese on” California.  “We can’t be looking 5,000 miles away and at the same time neglecting people who live here,” Newsweek reported at the time. According to The Washington Post, Larry Engelmann's Tears Before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam, writes that Julia Vadala Taft, who led the interagency task force for refugee resettlement, remembered Brown’s opposition.

"The new governor of California, Jerry Brown, was very concerned about refugees settling in his state. Brown even attempted to prevent planes carrying refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. . . . The secretary of health and welfare, Mario Obledo, felt that this addition of a large minority group would be unwelcome in California. And he said that they already had a large population of Hispanics, Filipinos, blacks, and other minorities."

In fact, then Senator Joe Biden complained about the Ford administration’s move to bring Vietnamese refugees to the U.S., saying the White House “had not informed Congress adequately about the number of refugees." Liberal presidential icon George McGovern told Newsweek, “I think the Vietnamese are better off in Vietnam.”

Presently, Governor Brown approved a measure allowing non-citizens to get driver’s licenses in California. He also signed a law titled the Trust Act, which bars law enforcement from detaining a foreign national they arrest for a period of time, so that immigration officials can pick up the person(s) charged and start deportation proceedings. Additionally, another law Brown signed allows illegal immigrants to get a law license and practice law in the state and included measures that would restrict who could charge illegal immigrants for aiding them with legal work, Fox News Latino reported in October of 2013.

“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” Brown said, according to published reports. “I’m not waiting.”

 

 


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