Many Hmong apply for asylum in the U.S. based on past persecution or fear of future persecution if they return to Laos. A common issue faced by Hmong asylum seekers is the notion of "firm resettlement" in a third country, typically France, prior to coming to the United States. A finding of firm resettlement is a bar to asylum in the U.S.
A person is considered to be firmly resettled if, prior to arrival in the United States, he or she entered into another country with, or while in that country received, an offer of permanent resident status, citizenship, or some other type of permanent resettlement unless he or she establishes:
- That his or her entry into that country was a necessary consequence of his or her flight from persecution, that he or she remained in that country only as long as was necessary to arrange onward travel, and that he or she did not establish significant ties in that country; or
- That the conditions of his or her residence in that country were so substantially and consciously restricted by the authority of the country of refuge that he or she was not in fact resettled.
In making this determination, the asylum officer or immigration judge must consider the conditions under which other residents of the country live; the type of housing, whether permanent or temporary, made available to the refugee; the types and extent of employment available to the refugee; and the extent to which the refugee received permission to hold property and to enjoy other rights and privileges, such as travel documentation that includes a right of entry or reentry, education, public relief, or naturalization, ordinarily available to others resident in the country.
The issue of firm resettlement has lead to the denial of many Hmong asylum applications and therefore, consultation with an Immigration Lawyer to discuss this issue is recommended if the applicant has "lived" in a third country prior to coming to the United States.
1810-1820: Many Hmong migrate from China to Laos for the promise of rich, fertile land and the seclusion of the mountains.
1893: Laos falls to French rule. Many Hmong supported the French, and many did not.
1949: Laos gains independence.
1950: Vang Pao, a famous Hmong military officer, is assigned to spy for the French.
1960: The CIA approaches Vang Pao to enlist his support in their fight against Vietnamese communists. The Americans promise arms, training and food. At the time, an estimated 500,000 Hmong live in Laos.
1964: Vang Pao is named a general in the Royal Lao Army. About 30,000 Hmong fought against the Vietnamese, being paid an average of 10 cents per day and the promise of being taken care of by the United States government.
1975: The United States pulls out of the war in Southeast Asia. An estimated 17,000 Hmong soldiers and 5,000 civilians are killed in the war. The Pathet Lao government in Laos begins "re-educating" the Hmong, often in concentration camps. Also, in retaliation for Hmong assistance to the United States, the government reportedly uses chemical weapons against the Hmong. Many Hmong fled to Thailand and more than 100,000 Hmong are killed.
December 1975: First 3,466 Hmong refugees arrive in U.S.
1980: Another 100,000 Hmong flee to Thailand. Some stayed in United Nations refugee camps for up to 10 years. Eventually, most were resettled in France and the United States. Others settle in Australia and Canada.
1990: About 100,000 Hmong refugees have moved to the United States.
1995: The Thai refugee camps are closed. Thousands of Hmong returned to Laos, from which there are continuing reports of torture and persecution.
2000: U.S. Census Bureau reports 169,000 Hmong live in the United States.
December 2003: The U.S. State Department announces the resettlement of 15,000 Hmong refugees from the Wat Tham Krabok camp in Thailand.