Two thirds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are foreign-born according to the Center for American Progress’ State of Asian America report released last year, and 40% of America’s immigrants currently call an Asian country the place of their birth. Of those approximately 10 million foreign-born AAPIs, 1.3 million (or 1 in every 8) are undocumented immigrants. These numbers also suggest that currently, approximately 1 in every 9 undocumented immigrants is AAPI. Those numbers are on the rise: over the last decade, the overall Asian undocumented population has doubled, with the undocumented population originating from India, South Korea and China having grown by as much as 300%. Considered alongside evidence showing that undocumented immigration from Mexico has slowed in recent years, Asian Americans are now the fastest growing undocumented population in America leaving one National Journal reporter to suggest that “someone tell Donald Trump that he’s picking on the wrong immigrants.”
The national Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit — titled “Our Shared Journey” — is being held this year, marking the first-ever national Lao American symposium, and the second meeting of the national Lao American Writers Summit five years after it took place in 2010.
Asian American Press reports that over a hundred Lao American artists, writers and community leaders will gather tomorrow in Minneapolis, Minnesota to explore Lao American history and identity, on the 40th anniversary of the first arrival of Lao Americans to the United States in 1975. Lao Americans arrived as refugees from Laos and other wartorn parts of Southeast Asia heavily disrupted by the violence of the Vietnam War, a civil war strongly influenced by US military intervention. Heavily bombed by US military forces between 1964 and 1974, Laos remains the most bombed country per capita in the history of the world. This violence led to the displacement of over 700,000 Lao refugees, including 400,000 who relocated to the United States. Today, Minnesota is home to the third largest community of Lao Americans in the country.
The conference is the first time many prominent Lao American writers, scholars, artists and advocates will be able to congregate in a single place to discuss the Lao American experience and Lao Diaspora. It also falls upon the 20th anniversary of the creation of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project, which the organizers say was responsible for “creating some of the very first collections of Lao literature since the end of the war in [their] own words”.
Last week, the Nobel committee announced that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize would be jointly awarded to two powerful activists within the Asian diaspora for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
17-year-old Pakistani education justice activist Malala Yousafzai skyrocketed to global fame for speaking out against the Taliban for their policies banning education for girls throughout her native Swat Valley, an area in the northwest region of Pakistan; her activism for the right of girls to have access to educational opportunities prompted an assassination attempt in 2012 that nearly claimed her life. Yousafzai (note: I use Yousafzai’s last name because female activists are often infantalized and dismissed by media coverage that selectively uses first names to refer to women where they do not for men) survived a gunshot to the head. Yet, her advocacy was undeterred and she has since become, quite legitimately, the face of female educational justice around the world. With last week’s announcement, Yousafzai becomes the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in history.
Kailash Satyarthi is a child rights advocate who founded Bachpan Bachao Andalan, a non-profit organization that focuses on child labour and human trafficking throughout South Asia. BBA organized the world’s largest campaign against child labour in 1998 in the form of its Global March Against Child Labour, and estimates that through its direct action has rescued over 80,000 children from bondage since the group’s founding in 1980.