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Fifteen years earlier this Thanksgiving weekend a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy named Viet Dinh come in this country as a refugee. He was through his mother, four sisters and a brother. They had $200, which they invested on offered winter coats.

They were watercraft people. They had actually left Vietnam ~ above a tiny fishing boat, which shed its engine in a storm. Castle drifted for days until they make it to Malaysia -- swimming in in ~ night to prevent patrol boats that had fired at them. After month in a refugees camp they were cleared for join to the unified States and also flown come Portland, Ore.

Two members that the household were left behind in Vietnam: Viet Dinh's father, Phong Dinh, and also his enlarge sister valve Dinh, who was 20 then. She remained behind to assist their father.

Phong Dinh had been a city councilman in Vung Tau during the Saigon regime. When the Communists took end in 1975, he was sent out to a re-education camp. That escaped indigenous the camp ~ above June 12, 1978, and was on the run once his wife and also six youngsters left.


Over the next 5 years Phong Dinh do the efforts unsuccessfully 25 time to obtain out of Vietnam by boat. He paid boatmen who never ever turned increase or that were arrested. Finally, in 1983, that made it come the Philippines, and also then come the unified States.

That left the earliest child, valve Dinh. She had helped she father salary the boatmen. Yet it was six years prior to she controlled to leave herself: top top a watercraft that reached Hong Kong in respectable 1989.

The household here knew that she had left Vietnam due to the fact that they gained a blog post to that effect. Yet for a year they go not recognize she remained in a Hong Kong refugee camp; indeed, they go not understand whether she had landed anywhere or had actually gone under at sea, together many boat people did.

Van Dinh was maintained in the locked Hong Kong camp for three years, wait for clearance together a refugee. With her was she 5-year-old son, Quan, who had a congenital love condition. The made she desperate to with the united States, but for years she could not also get one interview v those in fee of the refugee process in Hong Kong.

At the end of 1991 Viet Dinh, climate 23 year old, sent out me one essay he had written around his sister Van's plight in Hong Kong. Ns forwarded it come The new York times Op-Ed page, and also the editors published it in January 1992.


Last month i had one more letter native Viet Dinh. The had great news about his sister. ~ his Op-Ed piece was published, other documents picked increase the story. The Hong Kong authorities, feeling the pressure, ultimately interviewed valve Dinh -- and found the she was entitled to refugees status. In September 1992 she do it come Portland. The family members was rejoined after 15 years.

There is an ext to tell around the Dinh family, as I learned when I interviewed Viet. His parents are running a small grocery in Salem, Ore. A sister, Anh, help them. One more sister, Thu, is one accountant. Kathleen and also Leanne are computer system programmers. Viet's one brother, Bao, is one architect.

The son with the heart condition, Van's boy Quan, has been cure in Portland. He is doing fine.

Van herself, ~ 14 months in the united States, is researching at a neighborhood college in Salem and working together an assembler in an electronics plant. "After she gets she English and cultural skills together," Viet said, "I think she'd prefer to open up a business."

It is an American story, and one that i wish members of Congress and their constituents who space fulminating this days about "the immigrant threat" would certainly think about. The Dinh family is doing specifically what immigrants on the Lower eastern Side and so countless other places did in past years: struggling for themselves and also making this nation better.

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There is no other nation that has actually taken in for this reason many civilization from so numerous places and also cultures, and also gained so much in the process. To rotate away from that heritage now would perform the joined States great damage.

One an ext thing about Viet Dinh. His recent letter ended: "I graduated from the Harvard regulation School in June and am now a law clerk because that Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court that Appeals in Washington. Next year i clerk for Justice Sandra day O'Connor in ~ the can be fried Court."