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Remarks on Signing a Bill Providing for the Immigration of Certain Amerasian Children

October 22, 1982

This is a happy occasion, I think, for all of us here. Today I'm signing into law legislation that comes to grips with a problem that I think should touch every American's heart.

During the last three decades, when tens of thousands of our airmen, soldiers, marines, and sailors went to Southeast Asia and Korea to prevent aggression and protect the vital interests of our country, a number of Amerasian children were born. When the fathers returned to the United States, far too often innocent children were left without parent or without a country. Through no fault of their own, these children have frequently lived in the most wretched of circumstances and often have been ostracized in the lands of their birth.

Today it gives me great pleasure to sign Senate bill 1698, a major step toward facing up to the moral responsibility that we can't ignore. This good and humane law -- and it is that -- recognizes the rightful claim of Amerasian children to American citizenship and permits their entry into our country after arrangements have been made for their care with the families or with private organizations.

The sponsors of the legislation, Senator Jeremiah Denton and Congressman Stewart McKinney, deserve a special word of thanks for their efforts to reunite these children with those who will love and care for them. And also my thanks to Father Alfred Kean, who worked so hard for this bill. And really he brought it to the Government's attention. Now, he isn't here, but his sister Judy is here, and with her, Julie and Scott Tripp, the adopted children of her sister. And we also have Eddie Choi and Jini Choi, who are students at Gonzaga University in Spokane. I'll bet they found out already that that's where Bing Crosby went to school. [Laughter]

Americans have always opened their hearts to those coming from distant lands to make a new life here, to live in freedom, and to improve their lot. In this case I think we should go a step further. Instead of saying welcome to these children, we should say welcome home.

And now I'm going to sign this bill and make it official.

[At this point, the President began signing the bill.]

And I do so again with those pens that only write one word -- make sure that it's the only place. There it is. It's all legal.

Note: The President spoke at 2:34 p.m. at the signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.

As enacted, S. 1698 is Public Law 97 - 359, approved October 22.