Despite their outrage over President Donald Trump’s executive order barring refugees from seven primarily Muslim countries, numerous far-left Democrats once opposed admitting refugees fleeing the collapse of South Vietnam.
While citizens of South Vietnam sought refuge in the United States following their country’s defeat by communist forces from North Vietnam, many liberal Democrats opposed efforts by Republican President Gerald Ford to admit them.
The group of Democrats included then-Governor of California Jerry Brown (who currently serves as the state’s governor), then-Delaware Senator Joe Biden, former Presidential candidate and South Dakota Senator George McGovern, and New York Representative Elizabeth Holtzman.
“As a rookie governor when Saigon fell in 1975 and the U.S. was flying Vietnamese refugees to America, Brown was outspokenly opposed,” reported the Los Angeles Times in 2015.
In particular, Brown said in 1975: “There is something a little strange about saying, ‘Let’s bring in 500,000 more people’ when we can’t take care of the 1 million [Californians] out of work.”
His administration even attempted to block planes carrying Vietnamese refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco.
Julia Taft, who directed Ford’s Task Force on Indochinese refugee resettlement, told author Larry Engelmann in his book, Tears Before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam, “The new governor of California, Jerry Brown, was very concerned about refugees settling in his state.”
“Our biggest problem came from California,” Taft said during an interview with NPR in 2007.”They didn’t want any of these refugees, because they had also unemployment. They had already a large number of foreign-born people there.”
“They had – they said they had too many Hispanics, too many people on welfare, they didn’t want these people.”
In his attempt to settle Vietnamese refugees, President Ford also met resistance from many liberal Democratic members of Congress.
Liberal New York Representative Elizabeth Holtzman opposed helping the refugees, arguing “some of her constituents felt that the same assistance and compassion was not being shown to the elderly, unemployed and poor in this country.”
Delaware Senator (and, most recently, Vice President of the United States) Joe Biden tried to stall passage of the refugee bill in the Senate, complaining that he needed more details about the refugee situation because the Ford administration “had not informed Congress adequately about the number of refugees.”
Pennsylvania Representative Joshua Eilberg, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and International Law, accused President Ford of acting “with unnecessary haste” in organizing the airlift of orphans from collapsing South Vietnam.
South Dakota Senator George McGovern, who was decisively defeated by Richard Nixon in the 1972 Presidential election, went so far as to introduce a bill to assist refugees who wished to return to the country, despite its occupation by North Vietnamese Communist forces, suggesting most of the refugees “would be better off going back to their own land.”