Refugees from Myanmar in the United States

What causes people to leave their home countries? For some people, they might be looking for new opportunities, like jobs or education, in a new country. These people are called immigrants. Sometimes, though, people leave their home country because they are worried for their safety. They leave to escape violence or a dangerous situation. These people are called refugees. Many refugees from around the world come to the United States looking for protection and safety.

Refugees from Myanmar make up one of the largest refugee communities in the United States. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country in southeast Asia. People from the country are referred to as Burmese. Myanmar has a lot of diversity in both its landscapes and its people. In the north of the country, there are tall mountains. In the central part of the country, Myanmar is famous for its fertile plains. The country is split up into different states and regions. These states are mostly divided by the ethnic groups that live within them. Myanmar has a lot of ethnic diversity. There are at least 135 ethnic groups living in Myanmar, with over 100 languages spoken among them. Most people in the country practice Buddhism. Other religions, like Christianity and Islam, are also practiced.

From the mid-1880s to the mid-1900s, Myanmar was colonized by England. In 1948, the country gained independence and tried to create a democratic government. However, there have been many political struggles since Burmese independence. In 1962, the military took over the government. They created a socialist country. In a socialist country, the government controls many parts of the country’s economy. The government controls jobs, production of goods, and social services. The military government was led mostly by Bamar people, the largest ethnic group in Myanmar. The new Bamar-led government denied citizenship to some ethnic minorities and attacked their homes. These practices continue today. Targeted laws and attacks hurt minority ethnic groups like the Rohingya and the Karen. These ethnic minority groups in Myanmar are fleeing the country to preserve their safety and escape further persecution.

Most refugees from Myanmar settle in refugee camps in neighboring countries, like Thailand and Malaysia. Refugee camps can also be dangerous places. Often, disease is rampant in camps. Additionally, people in camps may not have access to high-quality food. Because of this, many refugees from Myanmar try to resettle in other countries around the world. The United States is one of these countries.

The U.S. has accepted Burmese refugees since the 1960s. But refugees from Myanmar did not start coming in large numbers to the U.S. until 2008. Most Burmese refugees in the U.S. live in Texas and New York.

Within the United States, Burmese refugees are active members of their local communities. Some refugees have started organizations to help newer refugees settle into life in the U.S. In Indianapolis, the Burmese American Community Institute fights for refugee protections. They also support Burmese refugees and immigrants coming into the United States. Additionally, refugees from Myanmar are still advocating for safety and democracy in their home country while in the United States. In 2021, the Burmese military once again seized control of the government in Myanmar. Burmese refugees and immigrants in the U.S. gathered to support the civilian government. These refugees have settled in the U.S., but still fight for people’s safety and rights in Myanmar.

Conflict and political struggle in Myanmar are happening to this day. Many Burmese people have either fled the country or are internally displaced. The United States continues to accept refugees from Myanmar in the hopes of providing them safe and stable communities.