‘Real American’ immigrants fight to preserve the best of the U.S.

n 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao emerged victorious in a civil war that lasted over 20 years. More than 300,000 Laotians fled to neighboring Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps before being resettled in other countries. Those who couldn’t escape were often sent to “re-education camps,” where they faced forced labor, torture and execution. Eight thousand miles away, my Laotian father, then an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa, contemplated his future: As U.S.-Lao diplomatic relations quickly deteriorated, his USAID-sponsored academic scholarship was in jeopardy, as was his legal status in the country. Without financial support or a legal right to stay in the U.S., a return to Laos would mean imprisonment in a re-education camp and possibly death.

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The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Narintohn Luangrath

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Narintohn Luangrath earned her B.A. from Boston College in May 2014. She is interested in countries’ policies towards forced migrants unprotected by the UN Refugee Convention, in particular, those forcibly displaced due to natural disasters or generalized violence and conflict. Narintohn currently serves as a Truman- Albright Fellow in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where she studies refugee social service policy. Previously, Narintohn served as a student trainee in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), researching the unique protection needs of unaccompanied immigrant children as well as the “credible fear” and defensive asylum application processes. Narintohn is a 2013 Harry S. Truman Scholar from Oregon.

She was a 2015-2016 participant in AICGS’ “Transatlantic Exchange Program for Young Minorities,” sponsored by the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through Funds of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.