A Laotian mother and her two children had obtained clearance to emigrate to the United States, and they needed a sponsor before they could enter this country.

There were special problems, however. Laotian soldiers had fired upon the Vue family as they crossed the Mekong River into Thailand; awaiting resettlement in a Thailand refugee camp, the three were nursing serious wounds suffered in the attack. The five-year-old son had been shot in the spine and was paralyzed. The mother could walk only with a crutch. The father (and breadwinner) and three other children had died en route.

A sponsor in the United States first must guarantee the ability to provide enough financial and personal care for the family, said immigration officials. Considering the circumstances, these would be substantial. But the resettlement office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, after being informed of the costs and care that would be involved, said, “Send them anyway.”

Such benevolence reflects “just plain, dam goodness,” said John McCarthy, the director of migration and refugee services for the United States Catholic Conference. In many respects, it characterizes the outpouring of response by religious groups to the human suffering in Southeast Asia. Religious groups have resettled over 75 percent of the Indochinese refugees entering the United States since May 1975, and various Christian relief agencies have sent food and medical supplies to the refugees, who last month numbered 340,000 in crowded temporary camps across Southeast Asia.

Refugee sponsors in the United States have included church groups, local ministerial associations, Christian student groups, and individual families. Appeals for sponsorships heightened last month since refugees—primarily ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.