On the other hand, immigration reforms and upheavals in Southeast Asia, particularly the Vietnam War, have prompted large numbers of unskilled immigrants and refugees to come to the United States. With few readily transferable skills and limited resources, they are forced to take low-paying manual and service jobs, which trap them in poor urban ghettos. There are also immigrant professionals who, failing to acquire positions in the U.S. comparable to those they held back home, have "fallen down" in the new country.
Caught in a world of gangs, drugs and poverty, these "downtown" Asians experience American life quite differently from their "uptown" counterparts. Immigration patterns help explain why there is a wide gap in poverty rates among and within Asian American groups. While the poverty rates for Japanese, Filipino and Indian Americans were 3.4%, 5.2%, and 7.2%, respectively, in 1990, 24% of Vietnamese, 42% of Cambodians and 62% of Hmongs lived below the poverty line. "Uprooted" from their old countries and "pushed" into a strange land, they have encountered enormous problems. Unfortunately, the stereotypical image of Asian Americans as the model minority makes it difficult for these Asians to seek support from the larger society, and their misery is often ignored by the media.