18 June 2006

by David A. Nuttle

     In recent years, official policies have helped to increase immigrant populations in the U.S.  The very high subsidy payments to American farmers and free trade policies act to flood some overseas markets with inexpensive U.S. corn, and other grains. Indigenous farmers are then forced to accept less for their grains, and these lower prices often force them to leave their farms to find another source of income.  As a result, more Mexican and other Latin American farmers have come to the U.S. seeking employment ---with many eventually saving enough money to buy small farms in the U.S. 

    For over four decades, U.S. foreign policies have created a number of new immigrant groups as a result of national defense efforts/ military operations.  These new immigrants include Vietnamese, Montagnard, Lao, Hmong, Black Tai, Kurds, Somali, and others. With the end of the Cold War, and economic chaos in some former Soviet “Bloc” nations, another wave of immigrants came from Eastern Europe.  Like it or not, the new immigrants have created even more diversity to the ethnic, cultural, and religious mix that is America.

     Each immigrant group has Americans who are supportive, and others that are hostile to their presence in the U.S.  The Hmong, for example, have become the target of hate crimes initiated by various Neo-Nazi groups.  One Hmong family, Jada and Pao Vang (and their six children), were recently forced to abandon their small farm in Adair County, Oklahoma, due to sustained harassment and intimidating rifle fire (aimed at their home and farm) by a local group of Neo-Nazis.  Local law enforcement was unable to stop these Neo-Nazi attacks reportedly due to the remote location of the Vang’s farm.  Needless to say, there are some immigrants who find that America can be unfriendly at best.

     In contrast to the above, Hmong immigrants receive strong support from Vietnam War
veterans who are aware of Hmong sacrifices during their era of engagement in Vietnam.  At a reported cost of over 270,000 Hmong killed, the Hmong are credited with saving over 17,000 American lives during the course of this long war.  The Hmong rescued American POWs, and downed U.S. Air Force as well as U.S. Navy pilots.  Most of the Hmong lost were killed in combat while fighting (and inflicting damage on) North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units attempting to move troops and war supplies from North to South Vietnam, via Laos.  In one period of intense fighting, the Hmong forces (under the command of General Vang Pao, a Hmong) engaged the 312th and 316 NVA Regiments, inside Laos.  The NVA had several thousand troops, supported by tanks and heavy artillery.  I was there at the time, as an advisor to General Vang Pao, and I personally observed Hmong forces defeat the NVA with small arms and close air support ---including T-28s flown by Hmong pilots.  In brief, there are a few Americans well aware of the Hmong sacrifices in support of the U.S.  

     Today, most Americans want to forget the Vietnam War ---and most were never really aware of the Hmong efforts to support U.S. forces in Vietnam. The Neo-Nazis seem to believe that the Hmong had no reason to leave Laos, and there is no reason they cannot now return to Laos.  In actual fact, communist forces (Lao supported by Vietnamese) seized control of Laos in 1975 after U.S. forces abandoned the area.  Immediately after gaining control, the communists initiated a campaign of genocide, against the Hmong followers of General Vang Pao, in retaliation for Hmong support of the U.S. during the Vietnam War.  Since 1975, it has been reported (from several reliable sources) that communist forces have killed over 300,000 people (mostly Hmong) by means of chemical bombings and aerial spraying of poisons, as well as assorted massacres and executions. 

     Prior to the communist capture of Laos, the U.S. was only able to evacuate about 3,000 Hmong leaders, and their families ---and those evacuated (General Vang Pao, his staff, and their families) would have been quickly executed by communist forces.  The remaining Hmong who had assisted the U.S. were forced to escape from Laos or hide in inaccessible, heavily forested, rugged mountain areas.  From these areas, today, the Hmong “Chao Fa” (Followers of the Lord of the Sky) resistance group continues its fight against the Lao communists.  Any Hmong returning to Laos, from the U.S. would automatically be suspected of coming to support the “Chao Fa.”  Thus, there is a probability that Hmong returning to Laos would be jailed, and soon executed. 

     It should be noted that there was a civil war in Laos from 1949 until 1973, and there were right, left, and neutral factions supported by an array of different ethnic and political groups. The Pathet Lao communist revolutionary movement (the left) relied heavily several ethnic minorities to include some Hmong elements.  The Royal Lao Government (the right) relied primarily on the lowland Lao and the Hmong followers of General Vang Pao.  Since 1975, the communist Pathet Lao government has made minimal efforts to reach some accord with all the different factions, even appointing some Hmong to positions of authority.  Yet, any Hmong even suspected of working with General Vang Pao (or the Americans) is jailed, and usually executed.

     All the above is to help explain why immigrants are not equal in the “eyes” of most Americans: We do not take the time to understand where they have come from, and why they are here.  Given this lack of understanding it’s easy to think that any immigrant can just return to their foreign origins.  Many immigrants are not equal because we fail to give them an opportunity to be equal.
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