How Southeast Asian American refugees helped shape America’s resettlement system

2020 is the 45th anniversary of Southeast Asian American refugees’ arrival in the U.S., still the largest group to be resettled since then.

Following the Vietnam War and political unrest across South East Asia, the 1970’s saw a boom of South East Asian immigrants to America.

Many wealthy and well education immigrants came to America, having to start from scratch.

“Before coming to the U.S., I told my children, ‘Don’t be surprised if I have to start with menial jobs in the West because we need to adjust to a new life in the U.S., and we have to start very low in order to come up later,’” Le Xuan Koa told NBC Asian America.

Khoa was one of 123,000 Vietnamese refugees who came to the United States after the fall of Saigon in 1975. The year marked the beginning of the mass migration of Southeast Asian refugees following the end of conflicts the U.S. had been involved in in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

The Southeast Asian American refugee community this year is observing its 45th anniversary in the United States, where they remain the largest group the country has resettled since then.

When Southeast Asians began arriving in the United States, they were met with hostility and racism.

“The general sentiment of Americans was that they didn’t want Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. because of this very long and unpopular war,” said Sam Vong, curator of Asian Pacific American History at the Smithsonian Institute and former assistant professor of Asian American history at the University of Texas, Austin.

Read more via NBC Asian America