Coming to a better life in America: Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States. Part 5: Go to America or Stay in Vietnam?

Thứ Tư, 29 Tháng Mười 201400:00(Xem: 14691)
Coming to a better life in America: Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States. Part 5: Go to America or Stay in Vietnam?

In recent shows, we have been talking about the difficulties and challenges that every new immigrant faces in America. Learning a new culture, trying to function in a new language, and the need to find work quickly are all things that require careful consideration before the potential immigrant applies for a visa to the US.

Some sponsors tell their relatives that it might be better for them to remain in Vietnam because of the hardships that immigrants face after arrival in the US. But when those sponsors visit Vietnam, they are quick to complain about the pollution, traffic congestion, the need to pay tea money and the lack of various freedoms that we enjoy in the US. After a visit to Vietnam, how many Viet Kieu sponsors want to return to live in Vietnam? Not many.

Everyone who is listening to this show or reading this topic in a Vietnamese publication is well aware of the difficulties that newcomers face in America. Sponsors need to use their own experiences in order to decide what kind of advice they should give family members in Vietnam. For example, if you are sponsoring your married brother or sister, do you think that the family would be able to make a smooth transition into American life? Would their children be eager to come to America to continue their education, or would they consider it an interruption in their studies in Vietnam?

Does your sibling understand that you will only have a few weeks to help the family settle in and then you will have to go back to work? Then they will be on their own.

The sponsor also has to consider his or her spouse. Is the spouse 100% in favor of welcoming new immigrants into the home? Will this cause the couple to have arguments? Will the immigrants feel guilty about sharing the sponsor’s home and will that pressure them to move out even before they are ready to function without the sponsor’s daily help?

You know your relatives so it is really your job to encourage or discourage them, based on what you know about their ability to adapt to new conditions in life, and based on your US family’s ability to welcome the immigrants as new members of your household.

Is it really bad for the family to remain in Vietnam? Isn't Vietnam becoming more developed and more liberal as time goes by?

It is true that the skyline of Saigon shows numerous high rise office and apartment blocks, and the new highways are impressive, and construction has begun on a new subway system in the center of Saigon, and shopping malls and supermarkets offer almost everything that is available in the US. But a side effect of this development is the number of vehicles on the streets of Saigon, and the air quality resulting from that. For example, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street often has air pollution levels that are a health risk, especially to children.

The CIA Fact Book says that now in Vietnam there are several health risks of major infectious diseases, including bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis and H5N1 avian influenza. To this list, the US State Department adds rabies, cholera, particulate pollution and Tuberculosis. The State Department also says that “Medical facilities in Vietnam frequently do not meet international standards and may lack medicines and supplies”. And, “Emergency medical response services are generally unresponsive, unreliable, or completely unavailable”.

With regard to personal freedoms in Vietnam, you could Google to find the Human Rights Watch 2013 Report. It is a rather negative evaluation of the country.
International standard education in primary and secondary schools is available in Saigon, at roughly $2,000 USD per month, per child. International standard health care is available – if the family has the money to pay for it. The average Vietnamese family cannot afford these costs. Compare that to the US, where education is free, or costs little compared to Vietnam, and where health insurance is available at reasonable rates.

In Saigon’s District 7, the Phu My Hung development reminds some people of sections of Singapore. It is a rich, serene environment that many Saigon dwellers dream of living in, like Americans who dream of living in Beverly Hills. If a sponsor’s relatives already live in Phu My Hung, then perhaps there is nothing for them to gain by moving to America. But for ordinary people, Saigon remains a crowded, noisy, unhealthy environment, and it would not be fair for sponsors to suggest that families stay there and raise their children there. The average Vietnamese immigrant who lives in California certainly has a much better quality of life than the average person living in Vietnam.

We cannot discuss this matter without mentioning the children. We have known some parents who really did not want to immigrate to the States but who did so that their children could study here. As soon as the children finished study, the parents returned to Vietnam. But the parents can only do that if they have a home and business waiting for their return to Vietnam. For the typical parents, the move to America is a permanent move and it involves sacrifices for the sake of their children and grand children.

Do first generation immigrants ever feel at home in their new country? If we are talking about the sponsor’s parents, the answer is “no”. The parents will always need to rely on the sponsor and will rarely leave the house except to visit with other immigrants of their age or go to a pagoda, or go shopping with their sponsor. Younger immigrants who can speak English will have a better chance of integration into American society. Younger immigrants who cannot master English will always feel that they are outsiders in America.

The second generation of immigrants includes children who are born in America or who come to the US when they are young enough to quickly become fluent in English. Social integration is easier for them but often they feel more Vietnamese than American, due to the influence of their first generation parents. Their children (third generation immigrants) are the ones who will be able to feel comfortable about living in the US.

If the relatives in Vietnam have the money for a good education for the children, the money for adequate health care, the money for living in a healthy environment in the suburbs, then maybe there is no incentive for them to immigrate. But for the Vietnamese family who cannot afford these luxuries, then immigration may be the only way for them to achieve a better quality of life.

Twenty years ago, when people immigrated to the US, the relatives who saw them off at the airport usually cried. They felt that they would never see the immigrants again. In 2014, we have webcams, Skype, Tango, Viber. There are many ways to keep in touch across the Pacific Ocean. And the immigrants can now easily return home to visit those still living in Vietnam.

Prospective immigrants must make a difficult choice: stay in Vietnam where things are familiar, where their daily lives are predictable and where they feel comfortable about social interaction, or, go to American where language, culture and daily life will all be strange and sometimes hostile.

There is an English saying: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know”. It means that it is often better to deal with someone or something you are familiar with and know, even if they are not ideal (life in Vietnam), rather than take a risk with an unknown person or thing (life in the US). That is what the prospective immigrants must decide for themselves.

Q.1. How can people in Vietnam prepare for their experience as new arrivals in America?
A.1. There are no pre-departure classes available to inform immigrants about life in America. Younger immigrants are already familiar with life in other countries, thanks to Facebook and other social media and the TV and foreign films available to them. While this is an advantage for the young immigrants, it may also be a disadvantage because life in a new country is not the same as portrayed on TV.

Q.2. What can prospective immigrants do to learn about the realities of living in America?
A.2. Use the internet. Almost any question about life in America can be answered through emails to people in the States, or on the social media, or by Google.

Q.3. If an immigrant becomes a US citizen but then decides to go back to live in Vietnam permanently, what does the Vietnamese labor law say about hiring foreign workers?

A.3. If the person has maintained his Vietnamese citizenship, he can probably be employed as a Vietnamese rather than as a foreigner. Foreigners can only be employed for a year or two as managers, operating directors, specialists and technical employees.

Immigration Support Services - Tham Van Di Tru 

9070 Bolsa Ave., Westminster CA 92683 (714) 890-9933
779 Story Road, Ste. 70, San Jose, CA 95122 (408) 294-3888
6930 65th St. Ste. #105, Sacramento CA 95823 (916) 393-3388
Rang Mi - 47 Phung Khac Khoan, Q1, HCMC (848) 3914-7638
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