Refugees Rising. Our Time Is Now! #FamiliesBelongTogether

By Cha Vang, Executive Director

We are living in heartbreaking times.

Children being torn away from their parents.

Families seeking refuge and asylum from violence and poverty being turned away.

Immigrants are being denied entry because of their faith.

Sadness, anger, and powerlessness. Those are all feelings I’ve had all week. Seeing the images of families in search of a home reminds me so much of our family’s journey and hardship in coming to the United States. From the war-torn villages of Laos to the refugee camps of Thailand and finally to our communities here in the United States--a generation of soldiers, mothers and children lived through similar hardships in hopes of a better future for the next generation.

Outside of internet trolls and ignorant family members, I am hopeful that deep down--the vast majority of our refugee community has a deep empathy for the families at the border. Our collective hearts break when we see and hear children being forcibly separated from their parents. That we see our own parents pain in the faces of parents who are imprisoned in immigrant camps.

...we see our own parents pain in the faces of parents who are imprisoned in immigrant camps...

The time for our community to remain on the sidelines is over. As refugees or the children of refugees--WE know better than most the gut wrenching choice parents make in deciding to give up everything and leave their homeland because that choice outweighed the certainty of death in the face of violence and war. We know exactly what it feels like to be rejected by the majority of this country--many of whom were anti-immigrant and vocally opposed our resettlement. We know better than most the power of compassion and love--as we were the recipients of both when our families first arrived.

Our time is now. It is our turn to stand up and make our voices heard loud and clear. We cannot be afraid in condemning the inhumane treatment of families seeking asylum. We will be bold in challenging those in power--holding them accountable and voting them out if they fail to stand up for basic human rights. We will not turn our backs to families in need, simply because they are not Hmong. We will offer love and compassion to our Muslim brothers and sisters for they carry the burden of dealing with this country’s hatred and racism on a daily basis.

We cannot be afraid in condemning the inhumane treatment of families seeking asylum.

Our country has become a shell of its ideals, a nightmare compared to the dream our parents had hoped for. So what do we do about it…

Join me in trying to make a difference… here’s how:

Cha VangComment
June 2018 Voter Guide

We're thrilled to share our June 2018 Voter Guide for FRESNO & SACRAMENTO County. 


Proposition 68 - YES

HIP is recommending YES on Prop 68 because it provides vital resources to build parks and opens spaces for severally under-resourced communities. As the Sacramento Bee describes, "Roughly two-thirds of the money would go to build and maintain parks, and a substantial amount is set aside for park-poor communities such as those in the Central Valley."

Proposition 69 - YES

HIP recommends a YES on Prop 69 because it ensures revenues from Diesel Tax and the "Transportation Improvement Fee" go towards improving public transit resources and building up the transportation infrastructure in California. This is particularly important for the SEAA community living along the 99-corridor who have had to endure some of the worst air-quality in the country.

Proposition 70 - NO!!!!

HIP recommends a strong NO on Prop 70. This misleading proposition will make it harder for underserved communities in Sacramento and Fresno to receive funds from the State's cap-and-trade program. This existing program penalizes industries and manufacturers who heavily pollute the air and water. Turning this program into a two-thirds majority vote type policy would strangle resources and make it harder to spend those dollars in our community.

Proposition 71 - YES

HIP recommends a Yes on Prop 71. Under existing law, propositions go into almost immediately after an election. This means propositions can become law before all the votes are counted. This proposition would give the State five days after an election to ensure all votes are counted before laws go into effect.

Proposition 72 - YES

HIP recommends a Yes on Prop 72. In the Central Valley, Water is LIFE and there are millions of Californians without clean drinking water. While this proposition will not fix the Valley's water issues, it will make building rainwater capture system more accessible and an important component of water conservation. 


  • City Council - There are very important races in the City of Fresno that will affect every aspect of local government. Make sure you vote if you live in District 1, 3, 5, or 7. 
  • County Supervisor - There are also two seats up on the county level. The Board of Supervisors control everything from health care programs, to programs for our elders, to mental health services. 


  • DISTRICT ATTORNEY - If you care about community safety and #BlackLivesMatters--you need to pay attention to the DAs race.
  • SHERIFF - Immigration. Immigration. Immigration.
  • City Council - District 1, 3, 5, 7 will have elections.
  • County Supervisor - There are also two seats up on the county level. The Board of Supervisors control everything from health care programs, to programs for our elders, to mental health services. 


  • EVERY SINGLE CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICE IN CALIFORNIA IS UP FOR ELECTION THIS JUNE & NOVEMBER. Check out for more information on all the candidates on the ballot. 

Disclaimer: HIP is a grassroots organization whose mission is to strengthen the political power of Hmong and disenfranchised communities through innovative civic engagement and strategic grassroots mobilization. We envision a California of empowered communities that thrive in a socially and economically just democracy. As a 501c3 organization, hip does not endorse candidates.

The Nature of Life by Catherina Nou

In 2005, Catherina Nou submitted this essay as an entry in SEARAC's Beyond Refugees: From Flight to Setting Roots contestIn a recent episode on the SEAA Podcast Network, Cat described how this essay triggered a series of events that would transform her life and shaped the person she is today.

We're incredibly thankful Cat was willing to share this essay on HIP's page. Her writing hits close to home and tells the story of courage, love, loss and resilience. 

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The Nature of Life
by Catherina Nou

As I took a deep breath, the stench of Death greeted me. Some of us were sitting, some standing, but we were all silently sobbing. We had gathered in room 144 that Friday morning in June, hoping against hope that this would not be our final visit with my mother. My father stood looking out the hospital window unable to meet my mother’s desperate gaze and unable to confront yet another loss. A close friend’s whispered prayers were barely audible over my mother’s final gasps for air. I held her weak, cold hands as she lay there trying to look at all of her children, knowing it would be the final time. These were the same hands that held us children and comforted us during the Khmer Rouge era and later, through the many obstacles we would face in America. These were the hands we desperately tried to hold onto for security as children, and even as adults. However, with each passing moment, I felt her hands grow weaker and colder until The Spirits finally beckoned for her and took her from her misery. The smells, the sounds, the scene, the sensations are forever etched into my memory.

My mother dreamt of a big house with a big backyard. She wanted to have her own garden complete with a koi pond. She aspired to grow every beautiful flower she saw and plant all the trees she loved. However, her biggest dream was to see all six of her children don a graduation gown, cross the stage, shake hands with the dean and receive their college degree. She knew that in America she would have the opportunity to do and see all of this.

My family was ill equipped for American life as they arrived in the United States as refugees from Cambodia in 1982. By the time my parents reached the United States soil, they had suffered the loss of two of their children, burying them behind, but their memories still living. Four of my sisters also had to suffer the detriment of the Khmer Rouge and struggle to survive through their starvation while haunted by the sounds of pain. They sought a new beginning in America.

My parents were in a foreign land surrounded by a foreign language with little possessions of their own. They were constantly bombarded with America’s advanced technology; objects like the toilet were novel and took some time to adjust to. My family also fell victim to one of many of America’s “get rich quick” schemes. They were allured by the temptation of receiving thousands of dollars just by opening the top to a soda. However, my parents soon became savvy to American life, but still proceeded cautiously through these first few years. Learning to drive, learning to shop, and learning the language was all part of learning to live in America. It took my father four trips to the DMV to acquire his driver’s license, but it took my mother only one trip to the market to acquire the proper bargaining techniques. They both learned to speak the language through different mediums. True to their nature, my father learned through his schooling in the Buddhist monastery in Cambodia and from books in the United States while my mother learned through interaction with people at the store and through watching the television. They were both learning about living in America.

Not unlike most parents, my parents wanted us to concentrate in school and succeed. My parents never acquired professions in America because they were perpetually worried that their children would not adjust to this new country and, as a result, turn to street life as happened to many other refugees from Cambodia. They believed that the key to success in this new country was education, something they, themselves, were not able to adequately attain in their homeland. America provided that opportunity they did not have and my parents wanted their children to reap the benefits of this educational system.

Graduating from colleges from all over the coast of California with degrees varying from Psychology and Business to Film and Communications, my four sisters fulfilled my parents’ every expectation. My mother was also well on her way to fulfilling her other dreams as well. We had bought my parents a big house with a big yard. The roses were in full bloom, the corn stalks were flourishing, the banana trees were beginning to bear fruit and the koi pond was on its way to completion. There were only two more left to graduate.

My brother and I are number five and six, respectively, in our family. We are also the only two American born. We watched as our sisters attempted to master the English language and toiled through their calculus, Shakespeare, and Thoreau and then watched as my parents beamed as they received their hard earned degree. As my brother and I ascended the academic ladder, we saw my sisters start to plant their family trees and put down roots with their successful careers and growing families. My brother concentrated his studies on film and media in Santa Cruz while I studied Psychology in Davis, on track to graduating early. We were poised and ready to fulfill my mother’s desire and my father’s wishes.

Unfortunately, my mother passed away before seeing my brother cross the stage this past June and before seeing me shake hands with the dean this coming December. It is ironic that a source of life could also be a source of death. In the refugee camps of Cambodia, my mother nursed the children of strangers while trying to feed her own, helping everyone to stay alive. However, it was these same breasts that led to her passing. Twenty two years after coming to America as a refugee, she passed away from breast cancer.

“If you’re going to do something, do it right,” my mother always used to say to her children. It is this philosophy that has led us to our success in America. We have become leaders and innovators in our universities and professions through the application of my father’s wisdom and my mother’s constant encouragement. I, along with my siblings, dedicate all of our educational and professional accomplishments to our parents. We look to their strength, perseverance, compassion, and insight as our inspiration to triumph over Life’s obstacles. As I write this, it has been one year, one month and four days since The Spirits took her away, but she will always know where to find us because she made a home for us in an unfamiliar land.

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