Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Waves of Laotian Immigration

When were the major waves of immigrants from Laos to the United States?

     Most immigrants from Laos arrived in the late 1970’s, following the violent political turmoil in Southeast Asia during this time period.

Push Factors

     U.S. troops withdrawing from the Vietnam War caused a violent backlash throughout Southeast Asia, and caused Pathet Lao forces to overthrow the Laotian government and the country plunge into chaos.

 Pull Factors

    The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act in 1975 aided many Laotian immigrants in their arrival to the United States.
    An increased awareness of the atrocities committed by Southeast Asian governments in the late 1970’s led to a much easier passage for relatives of Laotian immigrants to join their family members in the United States.

 Where did they settle, and why?

    There are large Laotian populations in California, Texas, Minnesota and Washington State.
    Being refugees, the geographic distribution of Laotians is mostly dependent on sponsor groups and other organizations. 
    Laotian people have mainly settled in urban areas.


     Laotians have had a hard time finding employment in such a highly industrialized country as the United States.
    The illiteracy of the Laotian population contributes to this fact. Their refugee status also hinders their English ability.
    One in three Laotians lives under the poverty line, and one in ten is unemployed. They mostly find work at unskilled, low wage occupations such as operators, fabricators and laborers.

    Very little is known about the future of Laotian assimilation into American culture.
    They are a relatively new group of immigrants to the United States, and tend to be younger in age than most immigrants. This makes it very difficult to predict their future.

Contributions to the United States

    Laotians are a very new group of immigrants to the United States, but have made some very important contributions to society.
    Urban revitalization is often undertaken by Laotians through small business entrepreneurship.
    Laotians are also known for their strong communication skills and powerful orations; this allows them to make headway as interpreters, negotiators, counselors, organization executives and educators.
    An example is Banlang Phommasouvanh, a Laotian American educator who received the Minnesota Governor’s Commendation in 1990 for her work in education and the arts.