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Siskiyou Sheriff’s Department Working To Improve Relationship With Hmong Community

An effort is being made in Siskiyou County to resolve differences between the Hmong-American community and county leaders, particularly Sheriff Jon Lopey. Issues that apparently bubbled up from cultural misunderstanding led to conflicts in 2015, when Sheriff Lopey was accused of trying to suppress the voting rights of the Hmong people. The population has emigrated from Southeast Asia because they were being slaughtered for taking the American side during the war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The Hmong are traditionally farmers, and some of the Siskiyou County population had taken the opportunity to grow cannabis because of the high profit potential. This led to an aggressive series of raids by the sheriff’s department, which destroyed the cash crop, and code enforcement, which declared many of the properties uninhabitable. A restrictive cannabis cultivation ordinance made the ballot at around the same time that Sheriff Lopey declared an intention to arrest and jail anyone who attempted to vote in violation of residency requirements. That’s when the ACLU and some state agencies stepped into the fray to protect the voting rights of the Hmong-American citizens, and to be sure they were not being intimidated away from the polls. Last year Sheriff Lopey was contacted by the mayor of eElk Grove, which has a large Hmong-American community. Mayor Steve Ly hosted the sheriff at a number of Hmong community events, and Lopey has since attended similar gatherings in Sacramento and Butte Counties. He says he’s gained a valuable understanding and respect for the Hmong and last Monday he appeared on Hmong USA Television in Fresno. Over the last several months, Lopey, other county and state officials and leaders of the Hmong community have conducted monthly meetings as the “Hmong-American and County Community Advisory Council”. Now they’re ready to take their newfound spirit of cooperation public with the first ever “Hmong-American and Siskiyou County Town Hall”, which this Wednesday at 6 O’clock at the Montague Community Center. The general public is encouraged to attend so they can get a brief education on the rich culture, customs and history of the Hmong. Officials will also cover topics such as building permits, water treatment, voting rights and cannabis cultivation.