124. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Vice President’s Refugee Initiative

You approved on March 27,2 the preparation of an initiative for the Vice President during his visit to Thailand3 regarding the permanent resettlement in Thailand of a large portion of the almost 100,000 refugees which are currently subsisting in camps there. This memorandum presents a recommended initiative for your approval concurred in by State, Justice, the Domestic Policy Staff, and OMB. (and the Vice President)

Resettlement in Thailand is an important part of the overall solution to the Indochinese refugee problem. The Vice President’s presence there presents a unique opportunity to move the Thais toward a more forthcoming position on resettlement. U.S. support would be conditioned on two factors:

—It would be part of a broader international effort to assist in permanent resettlement.

—It would be carefully phased so that continued assistance would be conditioned on Thai progress toward resettlement.

The agencies have identified the following elements of a Vice Presidential resettlement initiative with the Thais.

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1. U.S. Policy Toward Indochinese Refugees—Our continuing commitment to boat cases without resettlement offer and land refugees closely associated with the U.S., including U.S. acceptance of up to 25,000 per year, should do a great deal to allay Thai concerns over the continued growth of the refugee population in Thailand, and demonstrate the U.S. long-term commitment to Indochinese refugees.

2. INS Officers in Thailand—The Immigration and Naturalization Service plans to station two officers in Thailand to improve the processing of refugees reducing current delays, and to provide a better focus to resolve refugee problems.

3. U.S. Financial Assistance—The U.S. would be willing to provide from $1.0 to $2.0 million for Thai resettlement planning and pledge additional U.S. assistance as part of a broader international effort during the actual resettlement program. This pledge would be conditioned on a Thai commitment to pursue resettlement seriously. The offer of planning money could require a supplemental appropriation.

Ultimately, the Thais might need to resettle as many as 80,000 refugees. The costs of such a program are uncertain but a recent study estimates $1,500 per capita would be required yielding a total cost of $120 million, of which the U.S. share would approach 50 percent or $60 million.4 We expect such a program would require up to five years and would involve the significant participation of other countries such as Japan.

4. U.S. Acceptance of Additional Refugees—We would pledge, as part of an international effort, to consider accepting additional refugees beyond the current U.S. program after the Thai resettlement program became well established. We could help the Thais greatly by accepting those refugees which would be difficult to resettle in Thailand—Cambodians and Vietnamese of which 15,000 and 2,000 respectively are living in camps in Thailand. Such a program would probably occur after new legislative authority were available and the additional refugees could be accommodated within the normal flow provisions.


That you approve a refugee permanent resettlement initiative by the Vice President when he meets with the Thais composed of four elements:

1. A full exposition and explanation of current U.S. policy toward Indochinese refugees.

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2. Announcement of plans by INS to station two officers in Thailand to improve refugee processing and assist the Thais in the resolution of refugee problems.

3. The offer of $1.0–2.0 million for resettlement planning and the pledge of support for an international program of assistance, conditioned on a Thai commitment to pursue resettlement seriously.

4. A pledge to consider the acceptance of additional refugees beyond the current U.S. program once the Thai resettlement program is well established.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Historical Materials, Mondale Papers, Box 83, National Security Issues—Indochinese Refugees [2/24–12/31/1978]. Confidential. Sent for action. Carter initialed the upper right-hand corner of the first page.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Documents 167 and 168.
  4. Carter underlined “50 percent or $60 million” and wrote a question mark in the right-hand margin next to this sentence.
  5. Carter checked the approve option for all four recommendations and initialed “J” underneath the last one.