Cambodians in the United States and Minnesota

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Overview of Theravada Buddhism and Cambodian immigration to the United States. Click to enlarge.

Significant Cambodian immigration to the United States did not begin until 1979.1 Of all the foreign-born Cambodians in the U.S. in 1990, 86% arrived after 1980 because of the political threat and unrest in Cambodia due to the genocide under the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam War.2 Immigration before 1979 was extremely difficult due to the oppressive regime of the Khmer Rouge. Because of Cambodia’s politically unsafe environment, most immigrants arrived in the U.S. with refugee status, affording them the support and services of refugee organizations and national and state governmental agencies. Assimilation to America was still difficult, however, due to the substantial cultural differences and the remaining scars from the horror many experienced in Cambodia. But America provided Cambodians the opportunity of living safely, healthily, and freely. This large influx of refugees slowed around 1985, when Cambodia started to stabilize.3

In 2006, the Minnesota Department of Human Services estimated the state to have more than 70,500 refugees, about 10 percent, 7,500 of those being Cambodian. Cambodians are the 7th largest refugee population in the state. Minnesota is home to a larger percentage of refugee immigrants than other states, with 25 to 50 percent of the state's immigrants coming as refugees compared to the national average of 8 percent. Minnesota, along with California, Massachusetts, Washington, and Texas, has one of the country's largest Cambodian populations.4

  1. Levinson, David, and Melvin Ember. American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1997. Print.

  1. “Immigration Library.” Energy of a Nation Home. Web. 2 Feb. 2011. <>.

  1. “Immigration Library.” Energy of a Nation Home. Web. 2 Feb. 2011. <>.

  1. “The Facts: Immigraiton in Minnesota.” Energy of a Nation: Immigration Resources. The Advocates for Human Rights, 2006. Web. <>.