To Be Legal, Accepted, and Able to Work
Lhatshampa Family Finds the Dreamed-of Place in Sacramento


In the early 90’s, many Lhotshampas, one of Bhutan’s three main ethnic groups, were forcefully expelled from their country. Many Bhutanese refugees have been living in camps in surrounding countries, like Nepal, for more than 15 years. While in camps, refugees are not “legal”. This usually does not allow them to work legally, instead they must depend on aid from various humanitarian organizations.


Since 2008, Opening Doors has had the privilege of resettling many Bhutanese refugees in the Sacramento area. The Sapkota family had been living in a refugee camp in Nepal for 16 years before they were able to come to the United States. While in Bhutan, Mr. Sapkota, would often cross the border to work India, where he taught science and math. He did this under great risk to himself, if anyone was caught, they would be sent back to the refugee camp without the possibility of work; this reality reinforced the Saupkota family’s sense of hopelessness and fragmentation.


Although the Sapkota family’s situation improved slightly once they fled from Bhutan to the refugee camp in Nepal, they remained disenfranchised and unable to work. With the dream of freedom in mind, the Saupkota family went through the arduously long process of becoming refugees in the United States. The Saupkota family’s request was granted in 2008 and they were resettled to Sacramento through Opening Doors.


Although refugees are allowed to work in the U.S. upon arrival, the current economic crisis has made this difficult. Mr. Sapkota said, “2008 was the height of the crisis and it was difficult to find a job.” The economic crisis did not deter his desire for those in his family to work. After living in the U.S. for a few months, his wife was given a job through a refugee job development agency. Mr. Sapkota is currently enrolled in a vocational school, which he says has successfully assisted 90% of students with job placement at course completion.


He stated that he is thankful to be here. He feels that “In America, they do not discriminate because you are a refugee…they do not look down on you like they do elsewhere.” He is thankful for the assistance that Opening Doors, Inc. has provided his family.


February 2010