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Holy Cao! Want Some Good Refugee News?

by Judy K. Warner

Good news about refugees is rare, I know. The election of Joseph Cao in Louisiana is exactly that. The Republican lawyer, who came to America from Vietnam at age 8 as a refugee, defeated corrupt Democrat congressman William Jefferson last week. An article at Rightpundits reported:

Anh Joseph Cao, 41, was born in Saigon in 1967. He fled Vietnam in 1975 with his mother and two siblings when he was eight years old, and came to America as a refugee. His father, a soldier in the South Vietnamese army, was captured and imprisoned by North Vietnamese Communist forces.

Despite a disadvantaged childhood in a refugee community, Cao excelled in academics and went on to study at Baylor University, where he earned a bachelors degree in Physics. He then received a masters degree in philosophy at Fordham University and considered studying to become a priest before entering law school at Loyola University, where he received a J.D. in 2000.

Since receiving his law degree, he has taught law at Loyola and practiced immigration law in the private sector. He has also served as a board member of Boat People SOS (BPSOS), a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Vietnamese American communities.

Why have Vietnamese been such successful refugees? For one, many were from the educated classes. That’s who got persecuted the most when the communists took over in Vietnam. Also, they had enough money to get to America, money to pay bribes and hire boats. They were not the wretched of the earth, though they were put into wretched circumstances such as re-education camps.

They were grateful to come to America not because we had a good welfare system but because we were a free country where they could believe what they wanted, and a country of opportunity where they could prosper from hard work.

Maybe the refugee agencies or the State Department should hire some Vietnamese-Americans to give lessons to the new refugees.

This article is originally appeared on Refugee Resettlement Watch December 15, 2008.

About The Author

Judy K. Warner is a writer in western Maryland. She and her friend Ann Corcoran established the blog Refugee Resettlement Watch in July 2007 when refugee resettlement became an issue in their nearby city and began looking into the issue. Their interest spread to national and international refugee issues and the blog now has readers all over the United States and in several foreign countries.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.