Congressman Lowenthal Marks 45th Anniversary Of Southeast Asian Diaspora, Calls On Administration To End Deportation of Refugees

May 5, 2020
Press Release

Marking the anniversary of the start of the massive Southeast Asian diaspora in 1975, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), today, introduced a House resolution recognizing the significance of this event, honoring those who survived and rebuilt their lives far from their homelands, recognizing the contributions these survivors have made to American society, and calling on the Trump Administration to cease deportations of Southeast Asian refugees.

“Throughout its history, America has greatly benefited from the direct contributions of immigrants to our nation,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “This year marks the 45th anniversary of the great diaspora from Southeast Asia, many survivors of which settled in the 47th District, rebuilt their lives, and added to our culture by sharing theirs. I am proud to introduce this resolution to remind us of the struggle these immigrants faced, to remember the challenges they overcame, and to celebrate contributions they have made to American life. It is also in honor of them that we urge the president to halt the deportation of Southeast Asian refugees, many who came to the United States as part of the diaspora. The story of the refugee is the story of America and we cannot turn our backs on them, now or in the future.”

The resolution highlights the timeline of the Southeast Asia refugee crisis beginning in late April and early May of 1975 with the near simultaneous seizure of power in Cambodia by the brutal Khmer Rouge and the Fall of Saigon in Vietnam to North Vietnamese forces. Less than a month later, the exodus of ethnic minorities from Laos began, accelerating in December 1975 with the complete communist takeover of Laos by the Pathet Lao. Over the next three decades of the diaspora, more than 3 million people fled the three Southeast Asian nations, with nearly 1.5 million resettling in the U.S.

While the resolution acknowledges the arduous and often difficult challenges faced initially, and still today, by those Southeast Asian refugees who resettled in the U.S., including severe poverty, lack of English proficiency, educational barriers, and unique health disparities as survivors of war and genocide, it celebrates the tremendous economic, educational, military, political, and cultural contributions these communities have played in American society since their resettlement.

The resolution also highlights the plight of more than 15,000 Southeast Asian refugees of the diaspora who live in the U.S. facing deportation orders, in many cases due to decades-old criminal convictions. Since 1998, more than 2,000 Southeast Asian refugees in this situation have been deported.

The resolution concludes by calling on the Trump Administration to place an immediate moratorium on the deportation of thousands of Southeast Asian Americans whose crimes occurred more than 10 years ago because, “…the House of Representatives honors these individuals as they hold fast to American values of rehabilitation and the need for second chances,” while acknowledging the U.S. responsibility to refugees, immigrants, and naturalized citizens in this community.

“Southeast Asian Americans have lived in the United States for 45 years and are an integral part of the American tapestry,” Executive Director of Southeast Asian Resource Action Center, Quyen Dinh said. “Our communities have contributed greatly to every aspect of our society. However, Southeast Asian Americans still face significant health, economic, and educational barriers, and the deportations of our community members continue to tear our families apart. We thank Rep. Lowenthal for introducing this important resolution recognizing our communities, advancing the push for equitable policies that would help our communities, and calling for a moratorium on deportations. SEARAC urges Members of Congress to pass this important resolution.”

The resolution is cosponsored by Congress Members Ami Bera, Gil Cisneros, Lou Correa, Jerry McNerney, Harley Rouda, Adam Smith, Jackie Speier, Juan Vargas, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, and Thomas R. Suozzi.

To read the full text of the bill, please click here.

The resolution is endorsed by more than 50 organizations, including the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), the OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.