As South Vietnam collapsed at the end of the Vietnam War in the spring of 1975, President Gerald Ford and the U.S. government undertook to evacuate thousands of South Vietnamese families who had assisted the U.S. throughout the war. The leading voice in the Senate opposing this rescue effort was then-Sen. Joe Biden.
Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese allies were in danger of recriminations from the Communists, but Biden insisted that “the United States has no obligation to evacuate one — or 100,001 — South Vietnamese.”
In April 1975, Ford argued that, as the last American troops were removed from the country, the U.S. should evacuate the South Vietnamese who had helped the U.S. during the war, too.
“The United States has had a long tradition of opening its doors to immigrants of all countries … And we’ve always been a humanitarian nation,” Ford said. “We felt that a number of these South Vietnamese had been very loyal to the United States and deserved an opportunity to live in freedom.”
But Biden objected and called for a meeting between the president and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to voice his objections to Ford’s funding request for these efforts. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who led the meeting, told the senators that “the total list of the people endangered in Vietnam is over a million” and that “the irreducible list is 174,000.”