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Rylee Gallagher

November 19, 2013


Buddhism
Journal 7

Since the end of the Vietnam War, in 1975, refugees and immigrants from Cambodia,
Laos, and Vietnam have migrated to the United States (many in California). This picture
was part of the Southeast Asian Archive created in 1987 in order to document immigrant
experiences/assimilation into a new culture. The archive includes documents of the
resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees and immigrants in the United States, stories of
the "boat people" and land refugees, and the establishment of new ethnic communities.
This is a representation of South East Asian immigrants because it shows a different side
to them than a depiction of the many reasons for migration. Some migrated because of
war, some for opportunities, and some still for fear of a restrictive (sometimes
socialist/communist) government. However, this picture depicts peace. It does not
overemphasize the hardships of the Southeast Asian immigrants but it instead focuses on
the opportunities found in America. Although, immigrant life is unequal at times and
economically unstable (hard to find jobs), it can still be a life full of hope and promise to
people escaping war or religious persecution. The girl depicted in this picture appears
calm and at peace with everything coming her way. She has a sort of sad beauty that
makes it appear almost as if she has been through some rough things in her lifetime that
she has had to overcome. This picture represents the hope and opportunity presented to
Southeast Asian immigrants upon arriving in a free country.
Southeast Asian immigrants, before or after they become citizens, can join the army and
go to war. Many joined the army as a way to support their families. Since the war of
1812, Asian Americans have been enlisting in the army in both segregated and non-
segregated units. An example of this would be World War I, more than 5,700 Filipinos
enlisted and later became naturalized citizens. Because they enlisted in the army they
were allowed to skip over legal paperwork that could have taken years. Many immigrants
choose this route to gain access to American citizenship for not only them but also their
whole family. This was a good way to ensure them not getting deported. This represents
the Southeast Asian experience through a common method of obtaining citizenship. To
many immigrants, the army was incorporated into their livelihood and their family
structure. This picture illustrates the significance of the army in immigrant life.
This picture is of Vietnamese immigrants from the South China Sea. Here is a woman
refugee caring for three small children on the replenishment oiler USS Wabash. This
picture shows the degree of need by the Vietnamese/Laotian people during the Vietnam
War. The immigrants were scattered and came down from different areas in order to
immigrate to America. This girl and the three children banned together in their time of
need. They stuck together because of their sense of collectivity, all being from the same
country. This image is significant because it portrays the fear and seclusion refugees must
have faced during the 1970s. Not only were they going to a new country, they were
losing their homes and their families as well. I think this is an important representation of
South East immigrants because it shows the vulnerable position they were placed under
due to American involvement in Vietnam and Laos. Even though it was our fault that they
are being displaced, they are forced to come to the United States and ask for entrance into
the very country that ended up hurting them. After the Fall of Saigon, many refugees fled
Vietnam by boat and as many as half a million died at sea in a desperate attempt to escape
the socialist government.
In this picture, a hundred and fifty South East immigrants stand to take the oath to be
American citizens. They each have an American flag and a folder in their grasp. Because
of this oath they will now be able to call themselves Americans. They will now be able to
vote. They will now be able to work certain jobs, serve on juries, and run for office. This
is meaningful because, to them, it is a choice. Being American is not something they were
born into, although this choice could be somewhat different for refugees, the majority of
these immigrants chose to be American. Sometimes when you are born into freedom and
privilege it means less to you than if you are given a choice. This reflects the Southeast
Asian experience by representing a time of great significance and wait to immigrants. For
many, American citizenship is a long and grueling process that can take years before
accomplished. Not only do you have to take tests and prove your citizenship/loyalty
(something that many Americans probably could not do) but it takes much energy to go
through all the necessary paperwork. The very act of taking an oath to become American
must be an act of joy if for nothing else than that all the long, sometimes-overly-
excessive work is over with.
This image was taken at a Lutheran Church in Minnesota. These Karen refugees keep
their culture alive by dancing the don dance to celebrate the Karen New Year. They
wore Burmese costumes for the first harvest. They followed the trail by the Hmong
refugees to Minnesota. The United States takes in refugees between the border of
Myanmar and Thailand at a rate of 17,000 per year, says the U.S State Department. This
picture is significant because it demonstrates how culture is important to immigrants as
well as Asian Americans. Although they have been removed from their country, they still
practice their traditions of religion and rituals. The traditions and customs of their home
country will forever be present in their everyday lives even if they are not present within
their own country. This can account for citizens as well as refugees. Asian Americans
often practice their cultural traditions carried over from their home country within their
own home and their community (such as church or a neighborhood). This reflects the
Southeast Asian experience by revealing the importance of immigrants to carry with them
their cultural customs and not losing their sense of identity. Keeping their way of life
alive is an everyday practice to both immigrants and Asian-American citizens alike.
This picture demonstrates how there is still, to this day, a demand for better rights and
opportunities for immigrants within the United States. The activists focus on uniting
families, mothers with their children and children with their parents. Immigrants to
America still believe that there is a deep-rooted inequity and unfairness in this country.
They said that they believe deportation is the same as violence against their people. It
breaks apart families and communities. Family is essential to 1st generation Americans
and immigrant success in their new life. By breaking them up, the government is
essentially hurting their chances of prosperity and economic stability. This reflects the
rights of the South East Asian immigrant. All immigrants face similar issues. Even
though this country was birthed from immigration, it still does not always seem the
friendliest to immigrants from other countries. At one point, the United States had a quota
on each country, taking only an existing percentage of the population to keep it in check
with the original make up in the country. This meant that those immigrating from Asian
countries had less of a chance to gain acceptance into the states than those from Europe.
Slowly, immigration policies in the United States have become more liberalized but there
is still unfair and unequal opportunities plaguing immigrants, especially those of Asian
descent.