HomeHmong AmericanA glimpse of hope for Hmong Americans calling for Census reclassification

A glimpse of hope for Hmong Americans calling for Census reclassification

By Valentina Lewis, AsAmNews Intern

After a recent meeting with Hmong and Asian American advocates, the U.S. Census Bureau has agreed to consider reclassifying Hmong Americans as Southeast Asian rather than East Asian for the 2030 Census.

The Census Bureau also said it would review feedback it has received since 2023 regarding the misclassification of Hmong Americans in the 2020 Census.

Leading up to the 2020 Census, Census Bureau researchers participated in extensive research and engagement as part of the 2020 Census Code List Improvement Process. Based on feedback and adhering to the original peoples language established by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in 1997, the Hmong population was classified under the East Asian regional grouping.

Advocates say that when the Hmong community is grouped into the East Asian category, their unique history is neglected and ignored, failing to acknowledge the distinct experiences that shape their identity. Thousands of Hmong people came to the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s as refugees after several wars across Southeast Asia. Many came specifically from Laos after the end of the Laotian Civil War.

In 2023, Hmong American and Southeast Asian American advocacy groups discovered that the Census Bureau had misclassified Hmong Americans after it released new data sets. The mistake sparked outrage and frustration. In March, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) circulated a petition calling for Hmong Americans to be reclassified as Southeast Asian, which received over 1,700 signatures.

On Thursday, May 23, in Washington D.C., 16 Hmong and Asian American advocates met with Robert L. Santos, the director of the US Census Bureau. There they stressed the importance of reclassifying the Hmong community as Southeast Asian. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “…after extensive engagement with leaders from the Hmong community leading up to the 2020 Census Detailed DHC-A release, the Census Bureau recognizes that many within the Hmong population in the United States identify as part of the Southeast Asian population.” 

Quyen Dinh, the executive director of SEARAC, expressed her and her team’s gratitude to Director Santos and the Census Bureau team for engaging with them on this issue. She also added that “it was an incredible and important opportunity for the community to express the harms that have been done because of this decision….” 

During this meeting, the community speakers got to uplift some of the major themes that they’ve been hearing for the past year and a half, such as the historical experience of Hmong Americans and how their misclassification is seen as a sense of disrespect.

“One of the biggest harms is the mistrust that now exists within the community from the youngest generation to the elders, who don’t even want to be counted in the next census 2030,”  Dinh said. 

Dinh further added that overall “this was a really big victory in terms of the community’s access to the director and being able to share these perspectives directly.”

When leaving the meeting, attendees were initially disappointed that the Census Bureau could not commit right away to changing the classification, but still walked out full optimism after “seeing that the census understands that the Hmong community is an important and critical American constituency that really matters.”

Advocates also offered the Census Bureau other recommendations for the 2030 Census during the meeting, such as reconsidering the use of regional categories altogether and managing a deep investment within communities about outreach and education towards the 2030 census to rebuild and repair trust. 

Drawing from past meetings and community feedback, the Census Bureau aims to ensure future classifications are more accurately and respectfully represented to the unique cultural and historical background of the Hmong community.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading