‘Real American’ immigrants fight to preserve the best of the U.S.
In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao emerged victorious in a civil war that lasted over 20 years. More than 300,000 Laotians fled to neighboring Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps before being resettled in other countries. Those who couldn’t escape were often sent to “re-education camps,” where they faced forced labor, torture and execution. Eight thousand miles away, my Laotian father, then an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa, contemplated his future: As U.S.-Lao diplomatic relations quickly deteriorated, his USAID-sponsored academic scholarship was in jeopardy, as was his legal status in the country. Without financial support or a legal right to stay in the U.S., a return to Laos would mean imprisonment in a re-education camp and possibly death.