Over 1,700 Individuals Call on Census Director to Classify the Hmong as Southeast Asian

Coalition requests meeting with US Census Bureau Director Robert L. Santos

WASHINGTON, DC – Over 1,700 individuals signed a petition to US Census Bureau Director Robert L. Santos, urging him to prioritize reclassifying the Hmong as Southeast Asian rather than East Asian. Accompanying the petition is a letter led by a coalition of 12 Hmong and other Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations requesting a meeting between Hmong community leaders and Director Santos.

The petition comes as the Hmong and broader Asian American community continue to call on the Census Bureau to correct the regional misclassifications the agency made regarding a number of Asian American ethnic groups, including the Hmong, Tai Dam, and Lahu, in addition to misclassifying Urdu as an ethnic group rather than a language.

“This misclassification not only undermines the visibility of the Hmong community, but also perpetuates a narrative that erases our distinct cultural identity and historical background. The overwhelming response to this petition underscores the urgency and importance of rectifying the Census Bureau’s misclassification,” said May yer Thao, President and CEO of Hmong American Partnership and Hmong National Development. “We urge Director Santos and the Census Bureau to heed the voices of the Hmong community and our allies, and to take swift and decisive action to correct these errors.”

”In stepping into the role of Director, Mr. Santos committed to putting a human face on the Census Bureau. Unfortunately, this human face is overseeing the erasure of nearly over 300,000 Hmong Americans by grossly misidentifying us as East Asian — including the country’s largest Hmong population in California. For months, we have asked the Census to correct this mistake as it would mask the many challenges our communities face, restrict public resources, and undermine our representation. Mr. Santos must address the grave mistake and ensure our community is accurately counted,” said Nancy Xiong, Executive Director of Hmong Innovating Politics.

“While the Census Bureau has made tremendous progress in making Southeast Asian refugee communities visible in the 2020 Census, misclassifying the Hmong community is a significant step back with major policy, identity, and cultural ramifications,” said Quyên Đinh, Executive Director of SEARAC. “We urge Director Santos to listen to the over 1,700 individuals who signed onto this petition and prioritize reclassifying the Hmong community, and to further engage with our communities to prevent such an issue from arising in the 2030 Census.”

“It is essential that the Census Bureau meaningfully engage with impacted communities upfront to ensure they are actively involved in the process—when their input can be successfully implemented. Not only will this step help avoid problems like the Hmong misclassification issue, it will help increase our communities’ investment in the success of the decennial census,” said Terry Ao Minnis, Vice President of Census and Voting Programs at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.

“Communities rely on the Census Bureau to be a leader among government agencies in being accurate, timely, and responsive to the changing realities of race and ethnicity in the United States,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, Executive Director of AAPI Data. “Instead of waiting until 2030, the Bureau should take corrective action by 2025 and sponsor new scientific studies on ethnic and regional classification. More generally, the federal government should revise its existing race and ethnicity standards (OMB SPD-15) to incorporate contemporary understandings of race and ethnicity by communities such as Hmong people living in the United States, in addition to the ‘origins’ or ‘original peoples’ definition that currently informs federal standards on race and ethnicity.”