This year marks the 40th year anniversary since the United States opened its doors to millions of men, women and children from Southeast Asia seeking humanitarian protection. SEARAC’s communities—Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese American communities—arose from the largest refugee resettlement in U.S. history. Approximately 1.3 million refugees from war-torn countries in Southeast Asia were resettled into the United States after decades of the U.S. war in Vietnam, the Secret War in Laos, and the bombings of Cambodia, followed by the ruthless Khmer Rouge genocide. In 1975 alone, the United States resettled 4,600 refugees from Cambodia, 800 from Laos, and 125,000 from Vietnam, and continued to welcome hundreds of thousands more in need of safe haven in the years to come.
Their courage and resilience has led these communities to grow and contribute to the country.
Today, Syria is currently facing a similar humanitarian crisis, with more than 50 percent of its entire population displaced from their homes due to civil war and the growing threat of ISIS. More than 4 million refugees have fled the country, and an additional 8 million are internally displaced—76 percent of whom are women and children.
That is why SEARAC, along with more than 2.5 million Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans living in the country, stand with our refugee brothers and sisters from Syria, and call on the Administration and Congress to carry on America’s legacy as a leading humanitarian leader by opening its doors to vulnerable communities.
In response to anti-immigration and anti-refugee legislation such H.R. 4038, “The American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015” – SEARAC has launched a social media campaign led by SEARAC’s staff and Board to demonstrate our responsibility to stand up for families who share our fates as refugees of war.
Because 40 years ago, America and the world stood up and fought for us, and fought for our country to open our doors. It took the courage of social justice leaders and volunteers and policy champions to challenge the status-quo to hold our country accountable to the crises that we created in Southeast Asia.
Today, we stand with Syrian refugees because someone stood with us in our journey for freedom. We invite you to join this journey with us by sharing your photo and reasons for why you support pro-refugee policies too by emailing katrina (at) searac (dot) org.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.