In 1989, The Tibetan US Resettlement Project (TUSRP), a coalition of Tibetans-in-exile and their American supporters, persuaded the United States Congress to provide one thousand visas for Tibetans as a part of the Immigration Act of 1990.
From 1992, when the first group of Tibetans arrived at O’Hare to 1994, scores of dedicated volunteers worked to provide needed services to the new arrivals, including housing, employment, healthcare, English language tutoring, visa processing, and much more.
The first phase of the resettlement effort and the subsequent phase of reunification of their families were carried out very successfully. The Tibetan Resettlement Project was later renamed as ‘The Tibetan Alliance of Chicago’. Its Board of Directors consisted of both Americans and Tibetans.
The first Tibetans arrived with varying degrees of skills. Those newly escaped from Tibet knew little or no English, while those educated in India could speak or write fluently. Likewise with work experiences, many were farmers or street vendors in their previous homes, while others were well-educated professionals in the fields of teaching, art, administration and business.
All upon arrival were initially placed in minimum wage jobs and have done very well. Without question, American employers have been highly satisfied with their Tibetan employees, so much so, in fact, that many ask for more Tibetan applicants when they have openings.
In order to manage the internal community matters and the Tibetan government directives, a community-based organization called the ‘Tibetan Association of Chicago’ was founded which was entirely run by the Tibetans.
Today, the Tibetan community in Chicago has grown to approximately 300 people. The erstwhile two separate organizations have merged into one to meet the needs of the changing situations. The community has adapted well and is in much better condition than it was some ten years ago.
Over the years, the community has produced over 30 new babies. Many older children have graduated high school and gone to different universities to pursue further education.
The thriving new Tibetan community is constantly making efforts to contribute to the growth of Chicago’s communal harmony and multi-cultural mosaic. Tibetans brought to America the values of kindness, compassion, harmony and uncomplaining hard work.