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In its original meaning, an Amerasian is a person born in Asia, to a U.S. military father and an Asian mother. The term has sometimes been used to describe a person in the United States of mixed Asian and non-Asian ancestry, regardless of the circumstances.
Several countries have significant populations of Amerasians, including the islands that dot the Pacific Ocean. These countries include Japan (Okinawa), Thailand (Phuket and Pattaya Beach), South Korea, the former South Vietnam, and most notably, the Philippines, where the largest U.S. air and naval bases outside the U.S. mainland were situated.
The term was coined by writer Pearl S. Buck and was formalized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Many people were born to Asian women and U.S. servicemen during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The official definition of Amerasian came about as a result of Public Law 97-359, enacted by the 97th Congress of the United States on October 22, 1982.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), an Amerasian is: "[A]n alien who was born in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, or Thailand after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and was fathered by a U.S. citizen." The Amerasian Foundation (AF) and Amerasian Family Finder (AFF) define an Amerasian as: "Any person who was fathered by a citizen of the United States (an American servicemen, American expatriate, or U.S. Government Employee (Regular or Contract)) and whose mother is, or was, an Asian National Asian."
The term is commonly applied to half Japanese children fathered by a U.S. serviceman in Japan on the island of Okinawa, as well as half-Korean children fathered by veterans of the Korean War or stationary soldiers in South Korea. The term is also applied to children of Filipinos and American rulers during the U.S. colonial period of the Philippines (still used until today) and children of Thais and U.S. soldiers during World War II and the Vietnam War. The U.S. military stationed bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Children born to mainland U.S. and native Pacific Islander parents in U.S.-controlled Pacific Islands are also sometimes considered Amerasian.
Although the term Amerasian originally referred to children fathered by white Americans, it should not be interpreted as a fixed racial term relating to a specific mixture of races (such as Mestizo, Mulatto, Eurasian or Afro-Asian). The racial strain of the American parent of one Amerasian may be different from that of another Amerasian; it may be White, Black, Native American, or even Asian. In the latter case, it is conceivable that the Amerasian could be fathered by a person who shares the same racial background but not the same nationality.
In certain cases, it could apply to the offspring of American females, who engage in professions such as military nurse, and Asian males. Mixed-race children, whatever the occupations of their parents, have suffered social stigma.
In April 1975, Operation Babylift was initiated in South Vietnam to relocate Vietnamese children, many orphans and those of mixed American-Vietnamese parentage (mostly American serviceman father and Vietnamese mother), to the United States and finding American families who would take them in.
Amerasians in the Philippines
Since 1898, when the U.S. annexed the Philippines from Spain, there were as many as 21 U.S. bases and 100,000 U.S. military personnel stationed there. The bases closed in 1992 leaving behind thousands of Amerasian children. Pearl S. Buck International foundation estimates there are 52,000 Amerasians scattered throughout the Philippines with 5,000 in the Clark area of Angeles. "The majority of the children have been abandoned by their American fathers," said Jocelyn Bonilla, the manager of the Pearl S. Buck center in Angeles City.
Unlike their counterparts in other countries, American-Asians, or Amerasians, in the Philippines remain impoverished and neglected. A study made by the University of the Philippines' Center for Women Studies further disclosed startling facts affirming that many Amerasians have experienced some form of abuse and even domestic violence. The findings cited cases of racial, gender and class discrimination that Amerasian children and youth suffer from strangers, peers, classmates and teachers. The study also said black Amerasians seem to suffer more from racial and class discrimination than their white counterparts. White female Amerasians are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment, the study noted.
Two-thirds are raised by single mothers; others by relatives and non-relatives; 6% live on their own or in institutions. 90% are born "out of wedlock." It was reported in 1993 that prostitutes are increasingly Amerasian, children of prostitutes caught in a cycle that transcends generations.
International Amerasian Day
March 4 has been designated as Amerasian Day in the Philippines. The Amerasian Foundation has designated it as International Amerasian Day.
In 1982, the U.S. passed the Amerasian Immigration Act, giving preferential immigration status to Amerasian children born during the Vietnam Conflict. The act did not apply to Ameriasians born in the Philippines, who can only become United States citizens if their father claims them; most do not.
A class action suit was filed in 1993 on their behalf in the International Court of Complaints in Washington, DC, to establish Filipino American children’s rights to assistance. The court denied the claim, ruling that the children were the products of unmarried women who provided sexual services to U.S. service personnel in the Philippines and were therefore engaged in illicit acts of prostitution. Such illegal activity could not be the basis for any legal claim.
In popular culture
- The Chuck Norris film Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988) depicted Amerasian children trapped in Vietnam; in the film, Norris is the father to an Amerasian child believing that his Vietnamese wife died during the Fall of Saigon.
- In the 1999 American Vietnamese language film Three Seasons, James Hager, played by Harvey Keitel, searches for his Vietnamese Amerasian daughter in hopes of "coming to peace with this place".
- The 2001 novel "The Unwanted" by Kien Nguyen is a memoir about the author's experience growing up as an Amerasian in Vietnam until he immigrates to the United States at age eighteen.
- The 2004 film The Beautiful Country is about an Amerasian boy (played by Damien Nguyen) who leaves his native Vietnam to find his father.
- Daughter from Đà Nẵng is a 2002 award-winning documentary film about an Amerasian woman who returns to visit her biological family in Đà Nẵng, Vietnam after 22 years of separation and living in the United States.
- The musical Miss Saigon focuses on a young Vietnamese woman who falls in love with an American GI and later has his child after the Fall of Saigon.
- The 2010 documentary Left By The Ship which aired on PBS Independent Lens in May 2012, follows two years in the lives of four Filipino Amerasians today, as the struggle to overcome the stigma related to their birth.
- In King of the Hill, Hank discovers that he has an Amerasian brother living in Japan.
- Bui Doi
- Eurasian (mixed ancestry)
- Lai Đại Hàn
- Left by the Ship
- from instructions for INS Form 360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant
- Amerasian Foundation - Giving Amerasians a Voice » Amerasian Definition
- Women and children, militarism, and human rights: International Women's Working Conference | Off Our Backs | Find Articles at BNET.com
- Tuesday, June 19, 2001
- ‘G.I. babies’: Little outcasts
- Feminism and Women's Studies: Prostitution
- International Amerasian Day
- Sunshine Lichauco de Leon (31 December 2012). "Filipinos fathered by US soldiers fight for justice". The Guardian (Manila). Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- The Life of Street Children in the Philippines and Initiatives to Help Them
- Bass, Thomas A., Vietnamerica: The War Comes Home, Soho Press, Incorporated, 1997. ISBN 1-56947-088-X
- Anderson, Wanni Wibulswasdi; Lee, Robert G., Displacements and Diasporas: Asians in the Americas, Rutgers University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8135-3611-1
- Gage, Sue-Je Lee (2007). "The Amerasian Problem: Blood, Duty, and Race". International Relations (Sage journals) 21 (1): 86–82. doi:10.1177/0047117807073769. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010.
- Asian-Nation: Vietnamese Amerasians, by C.N. Le, Ph.D.
- Asian-Nation: Multiracial Asian Americans, by C.N. Le, Ph.D.
- AmerasianWorld.com, by Kevin Miller, Jr., MPA
- SaigonNezumi.com, by Kevin Miller, Jr., MPA
- Rick Smolan tells the story of a girl via TED.com