The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans by empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society.
SEARAC defines Southeast Asian Americans as people in the United States whose heritage stems from Cambodia, Laos, or Vietnam. Southeast Asian Americans now number more than 2.5 million, and most either arrived in the U.S. as refugees or are the children of refugees. They include people from multiple ethnic and language groups.
SEARAC was originally formed in 1979 by a group of American volunteers in response to the genocide in Cambodia. Originally the “Indochina Refugee Action Center” (IRAC), the group advocated for passage of the Refugee Act of 1980 and the establishment of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. These policies developed the country’s first formal refugee resettlement program. In 1982, Lê Xuân Khoa became the organization’s first executive director, marking the transition to a Southeast Asian-serving and Southeast Asian-led organization. The name was changed to “Southeast Asia Resource Action Center” (SEARAC) in 1992 to embody the shift in goals from advocating for post-war refugee resettlement to long-term community empowerment.
SEARAC grew as the Southeast Asian American community grew, transitioning from new refugees to new Americans. SEARAC emerged as a strong voice for the long-term integration and civic engagement of refugee communities beyond the initial resettlement period, including durable solutions for economic empowerment, education, health, and naturalization. Today, SEARAC advocates forcefully at the national and California state-level for policies that empower and advance Southeast Asian American communities, produces original research, supports and nurtures community-based organizations, and trains hundreds of Southeast Asian American leaders to advocate for their communities.