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Before it was renamed PBS SoCaL, KOCE-TV was Orange County’s PBS station.  Starting in the late 1970’s, KOCE produced more than a dozen television programs about one of the greatest human migrations in American history.  By 1981, about  142,000 refugees were living in California, and of these about 30,000 were in Orange County.  After the 1975 Saigon airlifts,  Orange County continued to receive thousands of “boat people” each month, refugees who took incredible risks fleeing in small boats on the high seas, facing piracy, disease, starvation, and shockingly overcrowded camps.   

During this time, KOCE-TV  was situated in a unique place for the purpose of documenting this migration.   With studios located on a community college campus near Little Saigon in Westminster, CA,  KOCE-TV was witness to a modern-day diaspora, just a few blocks from its doors.   KOCE took a vital public role in addressing the impact of resettlement on public and private agencies.  In addition, KOCE had a responsibility to retell the story of the immigrant experience.    No other domestic immigration of this size had ever occurred during the era of television.  KOCE-TV’s challenge was to present this new immigration story within the context of our nation’s historical perspective on immigration.   KOCE-TV was in the right place and right time to preserve the voices and images of people who lived through this amazing era.

Presented here are two KOCE-TV half-hour documentaries telling the Southeast Asian refugee experience as it happened in 1978 and later in 1981.

1978 - Indochinese Refugees: A Second Look

Three years after the fall of Saigon, this KOCE documentary examined the conditions of new immigrants from Southeast Asia and how they were adapting to life in Orange County. It also examined the concerns of longtime residents of Orange County who believed refugees strained government social services.  


1981 - Sweet Land of Liberty?

This documentary looked at the continuing influx of refugees to understand how their customs and language were proving to be a challenge in employment. The program focused on prejudice against Southeast Asian refugees and the bureaucratic red tape involved in federal assistance programs for them.


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