Four Hmong Americans were elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives last month, the largest number since Hmong immigrants and refugees arrived in the U.S.
Among them is Samantha Vang, whose parents fled Laos years after a civil war ravaged the country.
“My mother and father came here with nothing and they never expected to see this,” Vang, who will represent District 40B, told KSTP. “I guess you could say this is achieving the American dream on steroids.”
The Laotian Civil War, known to the CIA as America’s “Secret War,” occurred from 1959 to 1975 between the Royal Lao Government and the Communist Pathet Lao, with both sides receiving external support from the US and Soviet Union, respectively.
The war, which resulted in the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (exiling the Kingdom of Laos), left some 200,000 Laotians and 30,000 Hmong people dead, according to foreign relations expert Joshua Kurlantzick.
Vang’s parents landed in the U.S. in 1993, following an earlier wave of political refugees who found themselves homeless. Today, approximately 70,000 Hmong people live in Minnesota.
Other successful Hmong candidates include Tou Xiong, Jay Xiong and Kaohly Her.
“It speaks more about America than about any individual. I’m really proud to be a part of it,” Tou Xiong, who was elected to represent District 53A, told MinnPost.
Jay Xiong, who will represent District 67B, added, “My story is the continuation of the long history of Minnesota, where the Johnsons and Olsons were once new immigrants to the state.”
The newly-elected legislators will be working on various issues as they assume office next year. For one, Kaohly Her, who was elected to represent District 64A, education is the priority.
“As early as I can remember, my parents would say to me that the way out of poverty is through education,” the mother-of-two wrote in her campaign website. “My mother emphasized independence and my father on self-reliance. My father said that there is no greater return in life than that which you receive from investing in your education. My parents were right.”
“My educational attainment led me to work in and hold leadership positions in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. I have been extremely blessed to have a broad depth of experience and skills.”
Her plans to secure greater investments in early childhood education and lobby to restore funding for public education to pre-recession levels.
Interestingly, two more Hmong candidates, Paul Yang and Adam Yang, were elected as judges to Minnesota’s Ramsey County’s Second Judicial District.