Iowa Responds to Tai Dam

Former Iowa Governor Robert Ray discusses his decision to bring Tai Dam refugees to Iowa in 1975 after receiving a letter from Art Crisfield, an American who had met the Tai Dam while living in Southeast Asia.


They had no place to live and they were going to have to be relocated and he was writing a letter to see if some state could take them as a group so that they would at least have some comfort level and have someone with whom they could associate. And so I responded thinking maybe we could do that and to my amazement I was the only governor who responded and so that's how I got introduced to the Tai Dam. And then there was a glitch, there was a problem and that was the State Department had a policy that refugees could not be relocated in a group in any one community and there was logic to that because, you know, you can't just dump a lot of people in a community and-- think what that would do to school when they couldn't speak the language and what have you. So, I understood that. But I thought there was a good reason for the exception and so I worked with the State Department and the White House and I remember making the trip to talk to Henry Kissinger and then to Gerry Ford and the final analysis they agreed and they made the exception and so we were able to invite the Tai Dam to come to Iowa.

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