At the Shores Again: A Later AAPI History

In 1975, the end of the Vietnam War resulted in a new push of large-scale Asian immigration to the U.S. as refugees first sought asylum from political persecution.

The first group of refugees was made up of mostly educated Vietnamese scholars and middle class Vietnamese families. The second group was an ethnically diverse group of Southeast Asians including the Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and other minority ethnic groups displaced by the communist takeover of their homelands.

Unlike the first refugees, the majority of this group was poor, uneducated, and from rural areas.

Cambodian Americans

Cambodian refugees arrived in the U.S. after the fall of Cambodia in 1975.

They included a small group of the educated but most lacked formal education because the Khmer Rouge genocide killed most of the educated and professional class.

Laotian Americans

Laotians arrived in 1975 when the Communist Pathet Lao defeated the U.S.-supported government of Laos.

Most were the Lowland Lao but many ethnic minority groups, including the Hmong, Khmu, Tai Dam, and Lu-Mien also arrived.

Hmong Americans

Many Hmong were subject to violence and retribution in Laos because they worked with pro-American anti-Communist forces during the conflicts in Vietnam and Laos.

A large number escaped Laos to Thailand where they were incarcerated in refugee camps before arriving to the U.S. and many other countries.

Vietnamese Americans

Vietnamese American and Chinese Vietnamese American communities is the fifth-largest Asian population in the U.S. Early arrivals were made up mostly of educated scholars and urbanized, middle class families.

Recent Immigrant Communities: Tibetan and Karen Americans

Tibetan immigration goes back to 1949 when a few arrived to teach in U.S. universities. In the 1990s, the majority of Tibetan immigrants were settled later under the U.S. Tibetan Resettlement Project.

The Karen are the newest Asian group to arrive in the U.S. Originally from Burma and Thailand, many spent years in Thailand refugee camps before resettling in Minnesota.