As coordinator of refugee programs for Utah State University Extension Service, Tuwet Seethaler says she expects "difficult challenges" with some of the new refugee populations coming into the state.
Because Southeast Asians have done so well in resettlement programs, Seethaler said, Utah has been chosen as a cluster site for Amer-asians who will be allowed to move to the United States under an agreement between the American and Vietnamese governments."These are young people with Vietnamese mothers left behind by their American fathers, who were servicemen in the Vietnam conflict," she said.
The children's American looks made them "the sloth of the earth" in their countrymen's eyes and they were turned out into the streets in Vietnam, Seethaler said.
"They know no English and because they have had very little schooling, some have no skills in their own language," she said.
A group of 44 already has arrived in Utah, including 14 children and their immediate families. The youngest is 14 years old.
"Most of them are very anxious to locate their fathers. This is a delicate situation because in some cases the father does not even know he has a child, and if he does he may be married to someone who has not been told," Seethaler said.
Seethaler has been conducting orientation sessions with the new arrivals, and the federal government has provided funding for certain special services.
Meanwhile, the state is gearing up to receive a group of political prisoners from Vietnam, scheduled to begin arriving early next year.
"Our government has agreed to take them so they can be free, but there will be many problems with these people," Seethaler said. "Most of them held high political and military positions, and after being in camps for many years, they have mental-health problems that will need treatment before they are trained for employment here."
Seethaler said the Extension Service will have an important role in the adjustment process.
"I'm hoping Utahns and especially the refugee community will help provide the support network these people will need," she said.
A Vietnamese native, Seethaler had been in Utah with her American husband for two years when the first group of southeast Asian refugees arrived in 1975. Since then, she has been involved in local, state and regional resettlement programs.