Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Immigration and assimilation: After dislocation, a Hmong refugee finds a fit

This young Hmong American is helping his family make a successful business of their family farm.    - - Donna Poisl

CLOVIS, CALIF. -- Dressed in a red plaid shirt, jeans, and dusty boots, his brow beaded with sweat, Kouei Siong looks every bit the American farmer. Sitting in the shade of his family's roadside produce stand here in the Central Valley of California, he can see his family's 20-plus acres of berries, tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, chilies, and eggplant fanning out in orderly rows beyond the parking lot.

Farming is his future, a way of fitting in here in America, Mr. Siong now believes – even if he spent much of his life trying to avoid it. He remembers all too well the teasing that came with being the teenage son of Hmong immigrant farmers in the Central Valley in the late 1990s.

"The white kids would always mock the Asian kids," he says, shaking his head. "You know, 'You guys are a bunch of farmers, a bunch of dumb kids, a bunch of immigrants.' That was tough."
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