We were not treated as refugees - we came as immigrants.: Becoming Minnesotan

Wangyal T. Ritzekura, c.2005.
  • Name - Wangyal Ritzekura
  • Age at interview - 52
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.19.2005
  • Wangyal Ritzekura with the agent who sold him his first home in the U.S.
    Wangyal Ritzekura speaks with Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, c.2000.


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    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In the 1950s Tibet was invaded and occupied by the Chinese government.  However, today this land formerly called Tibet is still officially recognized by the United States as part of China.  Because of this, Tibetans could come to the U.S. as immigrants, but not as refugees.

    A person seeking an immigrant visa has to meet strict requirements before his or her application can be considered.  The Central Tibetan Administration required that Tibetans must prove that their taxes had been paid to the Tibetan government-in-exile in order to be eligible to apply for a visa as part of the Tibetan Resettlement Project. The U.S. government required that Tibetans were not allowed to come to the U.S. until they had a job set up in the U.S., and had been assigned a sponsor who would help them find work and provide housing when they first arrived.  

    To learn more about Tibetan history and culture, visit our Tibetan Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Wangyal Ritzekura 4
    2:25 Minutes | 2.32Mb


    Narrator: Wangyal Ritzekura (WR)
    Interviewer: Charles Lenz (CL)
    CL:  So you moved to Stillwater when you first got here.
    WR:  Right.
    CL:  Were you able to find a job, to find work right away?
    WR:  My job? We all had a job ready. Without a job we would not be allowed to come to the United States. Now we were treated totally different compared to other refugees. We were not treated as refugees. We came as immigrants. I don’t know whether you are taking care of this point or not. So when you come as immigrants you have to have a sponsor and then you have to have a job ready. When we have the interviews at the American Embassy we were asked about the job, the host family and they tested our proficiency in English. Those who were not very proficient in English should have a job where language is not very much needed. You know with those things we were just tested when we came over here.
    And when I came over here my job was . . . I was to work at a bakery. And you know, when we had the job package we just opened it and we just looked at it, the wage, the salary, or the pay. My pay was good. It was six dollars twenty-five cents. It was almost the best. We had friends whose pay was four dollars something. Not here in Minnesota but it was at other places. So I was with a job and I was laid off from the job after one week and my sponsor was very worried and I said to her, “Don’t worry. I see in the newspaper many jobs so I will just apply.” And I applied at Woolrich, Inc. on Highway 36. I don’t think it’s there anymore.
    So I worked over there and then I worked at another place, Lowell Inn. I don’t say that word correctly. L-O-W-E-L-L I-N-N. Very expensive. Very fancy restaurant in Stillwater. Very expensive. Two people pay about eighty dollars for a dinner. It’s very expensive. And I worked there as a cook making escargots. Experience-wise I had gone through so many things in my life. It’s amazing.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  The official residence of a group of officials who permanently represent their home country while living in another country.


    Noun:  Cooked snails, usually served as an appetizer.


    Noun:  A person who comes to a country to permanently settle from another country.

    lay off

    Verb:  To fire workers from a job, usually because the business is doing badly.  (lays off, laying off, laid off)


    Noun:  Ability, skill, knowledge, competence.


    Adjective:  Good at; skilled; fluent; practiced, especially in relation to a task or skill.


    Noun:  A person forced to leave his or her own country and seek refuge in a foreign country out of fear of persecution or violence or because of poverty or natural disaster.


    Noun:  A fixed amount of money paid to a worker, usually measured on a monthly or yearly basis.


    Noun:  A person or organization that is responsible for another person or organization, especially legally or financially.

    Verb:  To take responsibilty for or vouch for another person.  (sponsors, sponsoring, sponsored)


    Noun:  The amount of money paid for a period of work (usually by the hour).


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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