May 7, 2024 - News

New documentary chronicles Iowa's 1970s refugee efforts

A photo depicting the documentary "Refugees Welcome"

Watch "Refugees Welcome" for free on the Very Local app. Photo: Courtesy of Hearst Television

A documentary chronicling former Gov. Robert Ray's efforts to welcome thousands of Tai Dam and Southeast Asian refugees to Iowa in the 1970s debuts Wednesday.

Why it matters: "Refugees Welcome" resonates beyond Iowa and could help bring historical context and meaning to today's humanitarian outreach efforts, Laura Ling, the documentary's producer, tells Axios.

Flashback: Millions of people became refugees because of the Vietnam War.

  • Ray was the only governor at the time to answer a call to help resettle families, ignoring anger from some Iowans who disagreed.

The intrigue: This documentary includes footage of last year's wedding between Jeffrey Newland — Ray's grandson — and Jasmine Vong, the daughter of Tai Dam refugees.

  • "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for your grandpa," an emotional Vong says to Newland in the film.

Watch it: On the Very Local app, which is available on all mobile and connected TV devices.

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