STORIES OF HMONG REFUGEES

My heart is breaking for the fears our Hmong political refugees must be fostering regarding the recent policies discussed with Laos by our administration  to deport Hmong refugees to Laos. The Laotian treatment of the Hmong who aided the U.S during the Viet Nam war was anything but humane. One can only imagine the fate of the Hmong people once returned to Laos.

Last Thursday night those present at the Community Sharing supper heard the story of one of the families who were resettled in La Crosse. It’s important to know the stories and the sacrifices of political refugees.

Tony Yang’s family escaped but it took years.  Since his father and grandfather had been soldiers aiding the U.S. military they had no other choice. First they hid for 4 years in the jungle and having to flee once the Laotian started dropping agent orange to flush them out. They knew they had to head to Thailand and with no maps they forged westward following the sun. They went 32 days with food and traveling mainly at night . Eventually they reached the Mekong River and were successful in crossing  by way of handmade bamboo rafts large enough to hold their family of 4. They traveled with 10 families. Many  lost their lives due to not being able to swim and the river’s current which had a mind of its own. Plastic jugs were used as flotation devices.

Once in Thailand they joined  thousands in refugee camps and had to register in order to receive asylum. Tony arrived at 8 years old to the Thai refugee camps and lived there with his family for 8 more years until asylum was granted to the U.S. in 1986. Many other refugees were granted asylum in France , Canada and Australia.

The Yang Family was resettled in La Crosse,Wisconsin where Tony at 16 with no English was placed in Logan High school with 14 other Hmong teenagers. As a non English speaker he had to begin his language learning with simple vocabulary -numbers, colors, etc… Acclimating to the weather in addition to cultural differences was not and easy transition. Thanks to the help of agencies, various groups and volunteers ,simple tasks like shopping, renting an apartment, going to the doctor, etc… became easier.

So now some 40 years later when the Hmong are integral members of our community, they are being threatened by U.S. deportation lists. Many of the older generation have various stumbling blocks including limited education, language and finances to be able to apply for citizenship. (Exams cost $1000).

If I heard the number correctly some 51,000 Hmong live in Wisconsin with 4,000 in our area.

Wednesday there will be a listening session provided by Ron Kind’s office. Contact your representatives to stop this deportation legislation. We must support the families of those who fought alongside our soldiers.

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