Thai Migration to Los Angeles
The unprecedented increase in the number of Asians leaving their country to take up residence in the United States over the past decade has widely publicized by the media and intensively studied by social scientists. The simultaneous qualitative shift in the geographical origin of these new residents, however, has attracted less attention. Reinforcing the long-establish and well-documented migration streams from the Philippines, China, and Korea, a new wave of migrant from mainland Southeast Asia is now significantly adding to the ethic and largest Asian immigration group, the twenty fold increase in their numbers during the last ten years was unmatched by any other immigrant group, at least until the American withdrawal from Vietnam in the spring of 1975. Admittedly, the absolute numbers involved can be viewed as negligible by international migration standards, and are modest by American immigration standards. Nonetheless, the recent concern with undocumented aliens and the fear that future political unrest in Southern Asia may produce more immigration give the Thai flow a greater significance than could be inferred from a cursory examination of immigration statistics. As thai immigrants yield to the forces of agglomeration, the newcomers redistribute themselves through out the United States, which gives rise to notable regional concentrations. One-third of all the Thais present in the united States are unofficially estimated to be living in California, which at the same time acts as an attraction pole for half of the new immigrants. (American Geographical Society, Jacqueline Desbarats, 1979, p. 302-318)
Whatever it is, there is undoubtedly a strong connection between Bangkok and Los Angeles, apparent by the fact that Los Angeles is host to the largest Thai community in the world, outside of Thailand (Benjamin, 2006). Yet, the unprecedented increase in the number of Asians in general leaving their countries to take up residence in the United States have been widely publicized by the media and intensively studies by social scientists. For instance, there have been long-established and well-documented migration streams from China, the Philippines and Korea (Desbarats, 1979). And now, a new wave of migrants from mainland Southeast Asia, is significantly adding and enhancing the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States: the Thais. Increasing twentyfold in their numbers in recent decades, Thais constitute the fifth largest Asian migrant group in the United States, their numbers increasing over a hundred percent in a decade (Ong and Azores, 1994).
Since the 1960s, Asian American’ have been the fastest growing minority group in the United States, more than doubling their size between the 1960s and 1970s and again during the 1980s, with much of this growth driven by immigration. By 1990, Asian Americans numbered 6.9 million nationwide, nearly two-thirds of whom were foreign
born. This trend is not just quantitive but also qualitative. Significant social, economic, and political changes have accompanied a rapid ethnic and class diversification of the Asian American population. The phenomenal growth over the last quarter-century has raised serious issues regarding political representation, access to public resources, and the meaning of civil rights. The emergent heterogeneity is redefining the concept of race and the nature of interracial relationships. With diverse immigrant populations that do not have a common cultural, historical, or economic base, it is questionable whether Asian Americans have a solid foundation for a collective group identity. At the same time, new lines of conflicts are being drawn along racial lines: clashes between Koreans and blacks are the most visible but certainly not the only element in a complex web of intergroup relationships.
It is possible the derive insights into this transformation by examining Asian...