40 & Forward History

Southeast Asian Americans emerged from a transformational moment in U.S. and world history. 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, pushed hundreds of thousands of refugees across borders and oceans to flee violence, political persecution, and economic oppression. 

The U.S. responded to this crisis through a series of Presidential and Congressional actions that opened up American doors to refugee families from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. These actions built the foundation for our current refugee resettlement system, and reflected the best of American humanitarian values. 

Since 1975, over one million refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have been resettled in the United States, making Southeast Asian Americans the largest refugee community resettled in U.S. history. In 2015, our communities commemorate the 40th year anniversary of the Southeast Asian American experience and reflect on our history as we continue to shape a changing America.


[1] Office of Refugee Resettlement, Report to Congress on the Refugee Resettlement Program (2008), A-1.