Monday, March 5, 2007

Patriot Act Classifies Hmong as Terrorists

Here is some disturbing news that I just learned today. The new provisions of the Patriot Act are now defining any type of guerrilla fighters (those who fought against their country's established government) as terrorists. Among many other groups, the Hmong are one affected significantly by this new definition. For those who are unfamiliar with the history of the Hmong, thousands of Hmong boys and men were secretly trained by the US army during the Vietnam War to fight against the North Vietnamese as well as against the Laotion communist faction, the
Pathet Lao (in what is now termed the "Secret War"). Some 30,000 Hmong soldiers died during this time. The Hmong people were then left to their own devices when the U.S. pulled out in 1975, despite American promises that they would be taken care of. The Royal Lao Army was defeated and the Pathet Lao took over, making a vow to exterminate the Hmong people for their betrayal. Many thousands of Hmong fled into the jungles of Laos and were able to cross the Mekong River into Thailand where they were placed in refugee camps. A great number of them were resettled in other countries. However, to this day there are still some estimated 1,500 Hmong hiding out in the jungles of Laos. I plan to cover this information in another entry, hopefully within the next couple of days.

Needless to say, the Hmong may have been "guerrilla" fighters, but the U.S. sure as hell has no right classifying them as "terrorists" when they were fighting on our side. It's just absolutely the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. The implications of this are that those Hmong still hoping to escape Southeast Asia will not be granted refugee status, and it will be much more difficult for those Hmong already here to be granted their green cards. For a population that has given up so much it is incredibly unjust to make them suffer like this.

This new part of the Patriot Act, which makes guerrilla fighter synonymous with terrorist should be completely eliminated in my own opinion. How often have guerrilla fighters been the brave ones to stand up against totalitarian dictatorships? Just think of Latin America in the 60s, 70s and 80s ... Is the U.S. trying to instill fear in anyone that may want to stand up against an authoritarian government? With these kind of new laws, who on earth is going to be able to seek asylum in the U.S. anymore? Perhaps this is some type of twisted new way of curbing immigration.

At any rate, it is completely unfair. So please, write to your elected officials at the federal level and tell them that this is wrong and goes against what America stands for. But maybe you should hold off until my next posting on the current situation in Laos. You might have more to say then.

In the meantime, here is a link to an editorial in
the UW Badger Herald concerning this issue. An a link to another article with video clip from the local ABC station in I believe Fresno, CA where there is a very sizeable Hmong population.

Credit for these stunning photographs from a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand goes to the photographer Philippe Tarbouriech. You can view his other beautiful photography here.

Addendum: I should also have mentioned the other part of the Real ID Act, which requires a significant amount of documentation in order to get a government issued ID. This is also a crazy thing to require, as it will only make things extremely difficult for those who were born, say, in the jungles of Laos or a refugee camp and don't have a birth certificate. As a social worker, I should also add that this is going to increase costs and time for many different government institutions. I think that money could be spent in ways better than having workers spend hours trying to track down someone's birth documentation.