Immigrant Heritage Month: Attorney Monica Eav’s family immigrant story

June is National Immigrant Heritage Month!

The Law Offices of Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates are partnering with Fwd.US to promote and celebrate National Immigrant Heritage Month.  During the month of June, we will be featuring profiles of some of our own members’ family immigrant stories.

The first profile is from Supervisory Attorney Monica Eav, whose twin brother Kevin Eav is also a staff member at the Law Offices of Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates:


Our father is from Cambodia and our mother is from the Philippines. Both are U.S. Citizens today. Our father came to the U.S. from Cambodia in the early 1970s on a student visa, with a Fulbright Fellowship to study forestry. His plan was to get his degree in the U.S., then go back home to work. His plans had to change when Cambodia fell to the Communist insurgent movement, the Khmer Rouge, in 1975. He found himself stranded in the U.S. with all of his family still in Cambodia, and no way of knowing how they were faring, at least not for a long time.

Among other victims, the Khmer Rouge targeted educated people, especially those who were educated in the West, as being “corrupted”. Our father recalls that some of his Cambodian friends studying in the U.S. made the mistake of returning to Cambodia during this period, and they were never heard from again. His older brother, the only other one of his siblings to be college-educated, disappeared in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge era, along with his wife and children.

Our father’s decision to stay in the U.S., and the U.S. government’s decision to provide protection and lawful immigration status to people like him, saved his life.

While he was pursuing his studies in the U.S., our father met our mother, a fellow foreign graduate student in Syracuse who hailed from the Philippines. She was a PhD student at Syracuse University but her student visa was ending and she was about to return home. Dad proposed a different idea: marrying him and staying in the U.S. instead. Fortunately for us, she agreed!

Both of our parents enjoyed long, successful careers working for the federal government in the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service.  Today they are enjoying retirement even more, in southern California.

Portrait of my father's parents in Cambodia, date unknown

Portrait of my father’s parents in Cambodia, date unknown

Portrait of my mother and her older sister in the Philippines, December 1945

Portrait of my mother and her older sister in the Philippines, December 1945