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Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal

Authors

Bill Ong Hing

Abstract

U.S. refugee admission and resettlement policies have helped to shape the cultural identities of refugees in America in unanticipated ways. In this article, the author examines the effects of these policies on the young adult members of two small Laotian refugee groups-the Hmong and the Iu Mien. After reviewing the ad hoc admission and resettlement programs of the federal government, the author reviews a collection of interviews of young college students and discovers a range of attitudes on identity, mainstream culture, religion, and the desire to maintain ethnic culture. The cultural identity being developed by Ju Mien and Hmong young adults is based on their experience as the children of refugees, most of whom were on public assistance. They may identify with other Asian Americans with whom they interact, but without that interaction race alone may not be a sufficient marker to bridge a common identity with Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. In the process of cultural identity formation, some are choosing to incorporate aspects of their culture out of respect for and in tribute to their elders and centuries of tradition, but on their own terms. For them, the development of cultural identity is a statement of individualism. Theirs is a statement of dissent and independence from mainstream culture, Asian American culture dominated by Chinese American and Japanese American life, and their own parents' cultures.

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