The Hmong are one of the most recent Asian immigrant groups to come to the United States. Their main home is in the northern mountain regions of Laos. The Hmong and other Laotian immigrants were helped by the passage of the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975 in their efforts to relocate after the Vietnam War ended.
The Hmong people have no significant history of immigration to the United States before 1970. By the year 2000, Hmong immigrants numbered around 170,000 according to U.S. Census data. When they began migrating to the United States, they were encouraged by various settlement agencies to disperse throughout the country. However, because of their kinship patterns and collectivist nature, they instead tended to congregate within communities where other Hmong lived. Consequently, 89 percent of these immigrants settled in California, Wisconsin,
During the Vietnam War, Hmong villagers worked alongside the U.S.
In response to the plight of Indochinese communities such as the Hmong after the Vietnam War, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation to enable Southeast Asian refugees to come to the United States. Many immigrants from that region were well educated and possessed valuable job skills. In contrast, however, a large part of the Hmong immigrants were poorly educated and were unskilled workers, as most had been farmers in their home country, and other aspects of the Hmong economy were not highly advanced. These factors, among others, influenced group assimilation processes even though American officials and citizens were initially supportive of Hmong migration.
Between 1981 and 1986, only a few thousand Hmong refugees came to the United States. Admissions picked up between 1987 and 1994, when more than 50,000 Hmong entered the country. From 2004 until 2006, pressure from human rights groups contributed to the resettlement to the United States of an additional 15,000 Hmong immigrants from a
Shaman conducting a traditional good-luck ritual for members of a Hmong family preparing to leave a Thai refugee camp for the United States in 2004.
Hmong communities in the United States have stabilized. U.S. government estimates indicate that between 170,000 and 186,000 Hmong were living in the United States by 2008. However, estimates from nongovernment sources have suggested that there may actually be between 250,000 and 300,000. About 60,000 Hmong reside in the state of Minnesota, with about 30,000 in the
With a relatively short history in the United States, the Hmong still struggle with cultural identity issues. The initial
Barr, Linda. Long Road to Freedom: Journey of the Hmong. Bloomington, Minn.: Red Brick Learning, 2004. Account of the plight of Hmong refugees during the early twenty-first century. Faderman, Lillian, and Ghia Xiong. I Begin My Life All Over: The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience. Boston: Beacon, 1998. Collection of thirty-five Hmong immigrant narratives that emphasizes generational differences. Keown-Bomar, Julie. Kinship Networks Among Hmong-American Refugees. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing, 2004. Thorough sociological study of Hmong immigrants. Mote, Sue Murphy. Hmong and American: Stories of Transition to a Strange Land. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004. Another collection of Hmong immigrant narratives. Parrillo, Vincent. Strangers to These Shores. 9th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2008. General treatment of race and ethnic relations with a section on Laotian immigration that emphasizes Hmong immigrants. Schaefer, Richard T. Racial and Ethnic Groups. 11th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2007. General textbook on American ethnic groups that includes a case study of a Hmong community in Wausau, Wisconsin. Sherman, Spencer. “The Hmong in America: Laotian Refugees in the Land of the Giants.” National Geographic (October, 1988). Well-illustrated description of Hmong communities in North Carolina and California.
Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975