Vietnamese Americans Advocate for Syrian Refugees

Vietnamese Memorial (David McNew / Getty)
David McNew / Getty

An Emmy-winning Vietnamese-American documentary filmmaker from Fountain Valley, California, recently launched a social-media campaign called #ICareBecause, calling attention to the Syrian migrant crisis and urging support for their absorption into the U.S.

“As Vietnamese Americans, I feel we have a moral responsibility to help these people,” Duc Nguyen, 51, told the Orange County Register. “Others helped us when we were in that situation. Now it is time to pay it forward.”

The Register notes that the concept behind Nguyen’s campaign is to encourage people to post short videos of themselves saying, “I care because…” and declaring why they care about today’s Syrian refugees.

Nguyen was rescued by the U.S. Navy in 1980 as part of the group of refugees known as the “Vietnamese Boat People.” His award-winning documentary, Bolinao 52, is about a group of boat people that left Vietnam with 110 refugees and arrived in Bolinao, Philippines, with just 52 alive.

This week President Barack Obama directed the United States government to accept up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. will increase the number of accepted refugees to 100,000 annually by 2017 and will seek ways to increase that number in subsequent years.

The decision has been met with much criticism from Americans who are concerned that the migrants are not actually “refugees”–since they are leaving countries outside Syria in which they have already taken refuge–and that some may support radical Islam.

Nguyen had approached a former U.S. Navy commander who had rescued Vietnamese Boat People in the years following the 1975 fall of Saigon for help. He reportedly refused to help Nguyen with his venture, saying the Syrian refugees did not share the same values as Europeans and were creating problems, the OC Register notes.

Nguyen said he was “astounded” by the Navy commander’s response. “I started to realize there was a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment, not only in Europe but here in the U.S., too.”

He hopes his ‘#ICareBecause’ campaign will change minds.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.