Randy Tran, an Amerasian whose father was a U.S. soldier and who was abandoned by his Vietnamese mother, lives in Hayward, Calif., and travels the country singing at restaurants and concert halls. “I feel like I belong nowhere,” he says. Recently Tran led a group to Washington to lobby for the Ameriasian Paternity Act, which would give automatic citizenship to Ameriasians born during the Vietnam and Korean wars.
In one homeland they were treated as outcasts, in the other as refugees. Now thousands of these Amerasians are uniting and lobbying Congress for what they feel is a birthright: ‘We are Americans.’
Randy Tran walked quickly past the majestic domes and marble statues of Capitol Hill, looking for the Cannon House Office building and the people he believed could help him.
Tran, a Vietnamese pop singer who lives in a Bay Area suburb and sleeps on a friend’s couch, flew 2,900 miles to be here. He rehearsed what he wanted to say. His English was not perfect. He was afraid he would have just a few minutes to make his case.
He had a 3 p.m. appointment in the office of a Wisconsin congressman. He was not exactly sure what the congressman did, but he was certain that this was a powerful man who could help untangle a political process that had ensnared him and thousands like him.
Tran came to Washington on behalf of abandoned children of American soldiers and Vietnamese women, born during the Vietnam War and, like him, seeking citizenship in the country their fathers fought for.
Called Amerasians, many were left to grow up in the rough streets and rural rice fields of Vietnam where they stood out, looked different, were taunted as “dust of life.” Most were brought to the United States 20 years ago after Congress passed the Amerasian Homecoming Act, which allowed the children of American soldiers living in Vietnam to immigrate. But citizenship was not guaranteed, and today about half of the estimated 25,000 Amerasians living in the U.S. are resident aliens.
Tran lives in Hayward and travels the country crooning pop songs to Vietnamese fans at restaurants and concert halls. But he feels unsettled.
“I feel like I belong nowhere,” said Tran, whose father was an African American whose name he likely will never know, but who gave him the mocha-colored skin so different from other Vietnamese.
“If I go to Little Saigon, they say, ‘Are you Vietnamese? You look black.’ If I go to the American community, they say, ‘You’re not one of us. You’re Vietnamese.’ “
But most wrenching for Tran is his lack of citizenship, a constant reminder of being an outsider in what he considers his fatherland.
This is infuriating on all kinds of levels.
I can’t believe Amerasians have to lobby congress to get something that rightfully belongs to them.