Katrina's Vietnamese Victims

September 6, 2005

The Vietnamese had faced a lot of resistance and racism from the existing, and mostly Anglo, shrimpers when they first arrived. Twenty plus years later, they were working together against fishing restrictions. Government wildlife departments said the shrimpers were rapidly depleting shrimp in the Gulf and they were going to fish themselves out of business. Shrimpers said the government restrictions, not the lack of shrimp (which they questioned), was going to shut them down. One of the people leading the charge against the government was the tough and level-headed daughter of a Vietnamese American shrimper.

Now, it looks like many of the shrimpers in Lousiana will have to find a new line of work. Their boats and businesses were destroyed in the hurricane. But there's been very little coverage in mainstream media. There's been one whole story by a national media outlet on Vietnamese Americans, by the Associated Press, which went out on its wires yesterday.

A couple days before that, A Vietnamese American reporter at the Houston Chronicle checked out a shelter being run by nuns, who decided to do something after finding out that refugees were sleeping inside one of Houston's largest Asian strip malls. Katrina evacuation evokes memories of fleeing Vietnam three decades ago.


Melissa Hung

Founding Editor

Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. A native Texan, she lives in California. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.



I just returned from Houston. The situation in Hong Kong Mall (in the Bellaire district) is just escalating out of our control. We will be opening an annex office down the hall from our current one because it’s so overwhelming. Again, Vietnamese evacuees are continuing to come to the mall for their disaster relief needs and the mainstream relief agencies are refusing to come to the mall to deliver their services. While the donations from the community and the volunteers have been coming in, it is no where near the rate of the mainstream. We are using the resources as soon as they come in, in hopes that they will be replenished the following day.I never imagined the volume would increase, but it has. And they’re desperate. And the longer we let these people wait to be served, the more vulnerable they become to scams. As we opened yesterday, a man walked up with a flyer promising quick unemployment benefits. He came back a few minutes later furious. The agency would help him apply but wanted a 25% cut, if he was able to receive his benefits.We need the appropriate state agencies and relief organizations to protect this equally disenfranchised community.
We had major concerns about the Vietnamese Refugees in particular. So we started this website yesterday in hopes of coordinating efforts to help the community.www.therefugeerelief.comI'm working to contact any community based organizations I can find in the area that works with the Vietnamese community.