A Refugee's Daughter

June 14, 2011
Somsichack Photo

My name is Stacey Somsichack, and I am a first generation Laotian-American, born and raised in Connecticut. I studied Sociology at the University of Connecticut and was actively involved with the Asian American Cultural Center, focusing on Asian American issues and experiences. I have a strong interest in the Southeast Asian-American migration experience.

My family became refugees in Thailand in 1976 during the Secret War in Laos. My grandfather often told stories about the time when he left Laos. At the time, he heard of the forced re-education camps and feared for the safety of his family, so my grandfather suddenly left his village without notice. He crossed the Mekong River to refugee camps in Thailand, by night, to avoid border police. My grandfather later sent word back to his family on the other side of the river, and arranged for their journey to the Thai camps. My family lived a restricted life in Ubon Ratchatani refugee camp for four years before receiving status to resettle in the United States. Their decision to migrate to the United States was influenced by a French missionary, who explained to my grandparents that they could find greater opportunities in the United States than anywhere else in the world. In 1980, my family was sponsored by a church in Dickenson, North Dakota, where they lived for seven years before resettling in Connecticut.

Growing up, I experienced the effect that migration had on my family. We depended on the assistance of subsidized government housing for many years. My parents worked long hours, in blue collar jobs, to provide the basic foundation for my journey to achieve the American Dream. To achieve the dream, it was important for my family to assimilate into American society. However, it was equally important to keep our Lao heritage. My family worked hard to protect Lao traditions and our sense of Lao identity by being active in building a strong Laotian-American community. My grandfather started the first Laotian Buddhist temple in Connecticut in the early 1990s. Being active in the Laotian community is a huge part of my identity and helped defined my interests and career path.

During college, I studied sociology to explore my personal interest in social interaction, migration history, and experience. Securing a position at the U.S. Department of State was a monumental moment for my family and community in Connecticut. It was beyond my family's dream that I would have the opportunity to work for the institution that served as an important player in refugee issues and resettlement, protecting people caught in political conflict -- the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This blog is one of a series of individual stories by former refugees who are now working for the State Department. The series is part of the State Department's ongoing effort to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20. Each story reflects an individual's experience and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government.Become a fan of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration on Facebook.



June 22, 2011

Hajjia in Laos writes:

Far from helping refugees, the U.S. government is creating refugees. I am a native of Los Angeles, California but am not allowed to go to my home because of attacks from police and the Department of Homeland Security. My passport was withheld by the U.S. post office in hopes of blocking my escape. While the State Department appears to be the only agency working legitimately, the final arrival of my replacement passport months later was followed the next day by delivery of my "lost" passport. The post office complied in trying to put a 3 year-old girl in jail on terrorist charges for possessing duplicate passports. i defeated this trick when my father returned the "lost" passport the same day by registered mail with delivery confimation. He already had proof of return when they tried to charge me with illegal possession, but that was still a dirty trick. They kept up the attacks on my family by arresting my father and harassing my grandmother. They tried to murder my 1-year-old brother as he crossed the street during the white walk sign in a car that had stopped at a green light and waited for him to move into the street. Luckily, my mom pulled him back in time to avoid getting smashed by a van. When the van came back for a second try, my father moved us over the freeway so the van could not strike us without driving off the freeway bridge. Now the LA courts want to send my father to reeducation camp in America. Times have changed, and now it is Americans who must flee to Laos to be free. i am 7 years old now and have spent most of my life in exile, unable to got to my homeland. The U.S. wants to imprison my mother and father even though they have broken no law nor have any conviction. Their "Patriot" act is anything but patriotic. My father, my grandfather, my great grandfather and my great great grandfather all lived in Los Angeles, unlike any of the Patriot Act people, who are all foreign occupiers telling us natives we are not allowed in our own country. Seven years old, i speak 3 languages fluently and am currently learing the language here, but i have no place to go and the government is against me. i am too young to work. Can anyone help?

Kathleen F.
New Hampshire, USA
June 15, 2011

Kathleen H. in New Hampshire writes:

Interesting story.

Craig S.
District Of Columbia, USA
June 15, 2011

Craig S. in Washington, D.C. writes:

@ Stacey,

This is such an amazing story! I really like to read up on these types of stories. And the photo is awesome!!

Craig S.

Andrew S.
June 15, 2011

Andrew S. writes:

Good job sister!

June 16, 2011

Kalnoy in Laos writes:

... Very interesting story. More power to you.

Please help make the difference in the the things you truly believe in.

Franky P.
Connecticut, USA
June 22, 2011

Franky in Connecticut writes:

great story stacey!

Thavikiet T.
Virginia, USA
June 24, 2011

Thavikiet in Virginia writes:

My mother has the same story. We were sponsored by a church in New Brunswick NJ in 1980. I was the last of my family born in Ubon in the refugee camp in 1979. My mothers name is Viengsamay.

Rama T.
Florida, USA
June 24, 2011

Rama T. in Florida writes:

Your story sounds very similar to my family who fled Laos in 75 to stay in a refugee camp in Thailand and came to America in 79.I am proud to see a Laotian who is a college graduate and successful because when I look around at the Laotian families who settled in the same housing projects(50 families), I can say about 2 girls went off to college. I myself have had a hard life and is finally graduating in the fall with a degree in Elementary Education. It is important for me to see that children who are disadvantage graduate from high school and go on to become successful.People often group us with being the modeled minority, they don't realize how different we are from the Japanese and the Chinese who are doctors and lawyers, The difference is that we are refugees and they are immigrants. There is a huge difference! They also have education in their countries and we don't. I am not making excuses for Southeast Asians, but it's the fact.


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