ATLANTA — As the situation in Afghanistan continues to unfold, the exodus from the country has drawn comparisons to the departure of immigrants after the Vietnam War.
Phi Nguyen is a second-generation Vietnamese-American. Her parents were refugees who left after the fall of Saigon in the 1970s.
"I think the images we’re seeing are very striking and they harken back to what happened in Vietnam," Nguyen said. “It leaves a lot of people in a position where they’re scared for their lives and where they need to seek refuge elsewhere for fear of political persecution.”
Nguyen is now the litigation director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta, which advocates for civil rights, immigrant justice and voting rights for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in Georgia and across the Southeast. The organization recently called on the Biden Administration to help as many refugees as possible.
Kavi Vu grew up in a time after the Vietnam. She moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was two years old in the hopes of making a better life.
“No one wants to be a refugee, but at that time it was really unsafe,” Vu said. "There’s a lot of pain, generational trauma, and I think there might be some shame in it. I think a lot of Vietnamese folks feel like they deserted their country. As a refugee, you’re not starting from scratch. You’re starting from negative 100. I think it’s interesting, and you’re not giving refugees enough credit.”
Vu said her parents sent her two older sisters ahead with other family to the United States, and it would be years before the entire family was reunited. Despite the struggle, Vu said the thousands of Afghan refugees could potentially look forward to new opportunities they might not have had in their home country.
“It’s incredible to get to say that you’re creating your life and you really get to craft what your life looks like," Vu said. “We really get to create our sense of belonging here as refugees.”
117,000 people have been airlifted out of Afghanistan in the last couple of weeks, including 5,400 Americans. In that time, a suicide bombing killed 13 American service members at the Kabul airport. The U.S. has since retaliated against the Islamic State with an airstrike. The Pentagon said a drone strike killed two high-profile Islamic State militants. There is an August 31 deadline still in place for completing the American exit from Afghanistan.
Project Ally is a community response to provide immigration support to Afghan families with loved ones still in Afghanistan. The Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network, along with the American Immigration Lawyers Association - Georgia Alabama Chapter and the Refugee Women's Network started the project. To donate click here. To learn more about volunteering, click here. And to get more information, click here.