Back to the Future

The past is catching up with the Vietnamese son of a black American soldier

• If Chau did immigrate to the U.S. under the provisions of the 1982 law.

The answer to the first question surely will be that no one knows.

If the judge assumes Chau's father was a U.S. serviceman -- a logical assumption given the evidence -- then the answer to the second issue will be yes.

Dung Van Chau, November 2003
Jackie Mercandetti
Dung Van Chau, November 2003
Dung Chau came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1984.
Dung Chau came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1984.

As for the third issue, it seems clear that Chau and his family couldn't have gotten to the States any other way.

In a memorandum filed last September 10, McNamee noted Arizona is one of the few states with a law that says "every child is the legitimate child of its natural parents."

The judge said that, "Under Arizona law, Mr. Chau is the legitimate child of his natural father," whoever he is.

But McNamee also said Chau has the burden of proving his father's identity under "heightened proof-of-paternity" requirements that stem from a controversial 2001 U.S. Supreme Court opinion involving another Amerasian man.

That promises to be an uphill struggle at Chau's hearing, which hasn't yet been scheduled.

Dung Chau doesn't own a car, a bike, not even a cell phone. Though he may be eligible for food stamps and welfare, he says he's too embarrassed to apply.

Still, Chau says he's thrilled to be free -- that's what he calls it -- and he swears he's going to stay out of trouble from now on.

"I want to be a good guy and stay good," he says. "I don't have problem with work. I'm not a bad guy. Too late to be stupid."

Chau says he's been laying tile on and off in recent weeks, and is renting a room from some friends in central Phoenix.

His mother kicked him out of her home just a few months after INS released him from its detention facility last May. Chau says he doesn't get along with his mother's boyfriend, and that Mai never has gone to bat for him when it counts. (Mai Chau shrugged when asked separately why she evicted Dung, saying only that he'd be better off in jail.)

Chau likes to wear a tee shirt with large red letters across the front that says "AS AMERICAN AS." Famous patriotic quotes run side by side in tiny print across the rest of the shirt: "Live Free or Die," "I Shall Return," "All Men Are Created Equal," "I Have a Dream," "Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You . . ."

"My friend give me this shirt," Dung Chau says, flashing a rare smile. "I read every word. I know a lot of those words now."

E-mail, or call 602-229-8433.

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