When Mee Moua announced last May she was retiring from the state Senate, no Hmong American held a higher elected office in the country, and the news caught a lot of people by surprise.
But what no one knew at the time was that she was also homeless.[jump]
Moua was caught off guard by the collapsing housing market, just like lots of other folks, she told the Pioneer Press. She and her family pooled their resources to buy an $800,000 home in an upscale neighborhood in 2005. By the time they foreclosed they were more than $18,000 behind on payments.
We went with the best mortgage that would get us into the house. Our plan was then we would refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage. Then the credit industry tightened up and we could never get refinancing.
If it can happen to Moua and her family, you can see how it can happen to anyone.
Her father was a medic in the Vietnam War, and fled with her family to a refugee camp in Thailand when she was 5 years old. In 1978 her family, along with other Hmong refugees, moved to the United States.
That's when she became a shining example of the American Dream, graduating from Brown University, before earning a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Texas and a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School. She practiced law. Then was won elected to the Senate in 2002.
In a February 2009 profile, Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine wondered aloud whether she might even run for governor one day.
Now she, her husband, Yee Chang, and their three children are unsure what they will do next, after her Senate term expires in January.