Several countries have significant populations of Amerasians in South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and, most notably, the Philippines, the last having had the largest US air and naval bases outside the US mainland.
The term was coined by writer Pearl S. Buck and was formalized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Many people were born to Asian women and U.S. servicemen during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The official definition of Amerasian came about as a result of Public Law 97-359, enacted by the 97th Congress of the United States on October 22, 1982.
According to the United States Department of Justice and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), an Amerasian is: "[A]n alien who was born in Korea, Kampuchea, Laos, Thailand or Vietnam after December 31, 1950 and before October 22, 1982 and was fathered by a U.S. citizen." The Amerasian Foundation (AF) and Amerasian Family Finder (AFF) define an Amerasian as "Any person who was fathered by a citizen of the United States (an American servicemen, American expatriate or U.S. Government Employee (Regular or Contract)) and whose mother is or was, an Asian National Asian."
The term is commonly applied to half Japanese children fathered by a U.S. serviceman in Japan, as well as half Korean children fathered by veterans of the Korean War or stationary soldiers in South Korea. The term is also applied to children of Filipinos and American rulers during the U.S. colonial period of the Philippines (still used until today) and children of Thais and U.S. soldiers during World War II and the Vietnam War. The U.S. had bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Amerasian should not be interpreted as a fixed racial term relating to a specific mixture of races (such as Mestizo, Mulatto, Eurasian or Afro-Asian). The racial strain of the American parent of one Amerasian may be different from that of another Amerasian; it may be White, Black, Hispanic or even Asian. In the latter case, it is conceivable that the Amerasian could be fathered by a person who shares the same racial background but not the same nationality.
In certain cases, it could apply to the offspring of American females, who engaged in professions such as military nurse, and Asian males. Mixed-race children, whatever the occupations of their parents, have suffered social stigma.
In April 1975, Operation Babylift was initiated in South Vietnam to relocate Vietnamese children, many orphans and those of mixed American-Vietnamese parentage (mostly Vietnamese mother and American serviceman father), to the United States and finding American families who would take them in. Over three thousand Amerasians were evacuated from South Vietnam; however, more than twenty thousand Amerasians remained.
Since 1898, when the United States annexed the Philippines from Spain, there were as many as 21 U.S. bases and 100,000 U.S. military personnel stationed there. The bases closed in 1992 leaving behind thousands of Amerasian children. There are an estimated 52,000 Amerasians in the Philippines, but an academic research paper presented in the U.S. (in 2012) by an Angeles, Pampanga, Philippines Amerasian college research study unit suggests that the number could be a lot more, possibly reaching 250,000 this is also partially due to the fact that almost all Amerasian intermarried with other Amerasian and Filipino natives.
Unlike their counterparts in other countries, American-Asians, or Amerasians, in the Philippines remain impoverished and neglected. A study done by the University of the Philippines' Center for Women Studies further found that many Amerasians have experienced some form of abuse and even domestic violence. The findings cited cases of racial, gender and class discrimination that Amerasian children and youth suffer from strangers, peers, classmates and teachers. The study also said black Amerasians seem to suffer more from racial and class discrimination than their white counterparts.
Two-thirds are raised by single mothers, others by relatives and non-relatives; six percent live on their own or in institution, and 90 percent were born out of wedlock. It was reported in 1993 that prostitutes are increasingly Amerasian, children of prostitutes caught in a cycle that transcends generations.
March 4 has been designated as Amerasian Day in the Philippines. The Amerasian Foundation has designated it as International Amerasian Day.
In 1982, the U.S. passed the Amerasian Immigration Act, giving preferential immigration status to Amerasian children born during the Vietnam Conflict. The act did not apply to Ameriasians born in the Philippines, who can only become United States citizens if their father claims them; most do not.
A class action suit was filed in 1993 on their behalf in the International Court of Complaints in Washington, DC, to establish Filipino American children's rights to assistance. The court denied the claim, ruling that the children were the products of unmarried women who provided sexual services to U.S. service personnel in the Philippines and were therefore engaged in illicit acts of prostitution. Such illegal activity could not be the basis for any legal claim.