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November 1999, Volume 6, Number 11

Immigrant Integration

Chinese. Between 1991 and 1998, 350,000 mainland Chinese immigrated to the United States. The Los Angeles Times speculated on October 16, 1999 that mainland Chinese are arriving in numbers sufficient to change parts of the US economy, as they invest their own and Chinese government savings in the US economy.

Some Chinese investment in the US is made by the Chinese military, which controls an estimated 15,000 businesses, ranging from travel agencies to huge conglomerates; in 1998, the US approved a law requiring the Pentagon to identify all US companies that have links to the People's Liberation Army-the Pentagon has not yet done so. State-owned China Ocean Shipping Co., or Cosco, was prevented from expanding into a closed Navy base at the Port of Long Beach in 1997-98 despite the Pentagon's conclusion that its presence raised "no significant national security concerns."

Hmong. In April 1998, three young Hmong girls were raped in a Fresno Motel 6 by more than a dozen Hmong gang members of the Mongolian Boys Society; the girls were 12 to 14, and the gang expected to force them into prostitution. Police investigating similar cases in other cities to which Hmong have moved say that "These cases are so out of the ordinary that there's no reference point." In October 1999, a Fresno jury returned an 826-count indictment against 23 suspects accused of raping girls, then pimping them out for profit.

According to experts, Hmong girls who are raped do not tell their families for fear of ostracism, something that Hmong gangs can use to maintain their silence. One prosecutor said that it is hard to comprehend "being almost blackballed from my community and told you're damaged goods because you're held against your will and raped. Even some of [one victim's] own family members wouldn't talk to her."

The Hmong arrived in the US after 1975, and have had difficulty integrating. Many fought for the United States in a "secret war" in Laos, rescuing downed American pilots and spying along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. However, in California, the keystones of Hmong culture-- a strong family network and respect for parents-broke down, as parents who did not speak English stayed on welfare or found only menial jobs.

Evelyn Iritani, "Chinese in U.S. Shape Economy," Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1999. Kimi Yoshino, "Wave of rapes by Hmong gangs believed to be tip of iceberg," Fresno Bee, October 16, 1999.