Getting to America

Born in Cam Ranh, Vietnam, Kim-Khanh Van left her home country when she was six years old and fled to the Phillippines with her mom, three brothers and sisters and one small suitcase that fit all their belongings.

The family became refugees in the Philippines Refugee Camp made possible through the Amerasian Homecoming Program. They remained there for seven months learning English and praying for a sponsor. “I waited in long lines with my mother to get 2 1/2 lb of rice bags and canned foods. Some days we were lucky to get fresh vegetables or fruits; some days we were not,” Kim-Khanh remembers.

“Everything was rationed and controlled by the guardsmen. I remember the barbed wired fence, the curfews, the dogs barking at night, and the guardsmen’s cruel actions towards refugees. It was not a prison, but we surely felt trapped and scared. My family left an oppressive Vietnam only to live in another society where laws were neither just nor fair.”

Kim-Khanh’s family resettled in Seattle with the help of the Lutheran Church. They depended on the food bank and charity programs to fill the gap that her mother and oldest brother’s pay checks could not provide. She remembers waiting in long lines at the food banks: experiences that taught her a lot about life. She believes in  working hard and always be humble and thrifty in life. “I was a teen aide at Catholic Community Service Tutoring Center while in middle school, and I also worked from the moment I could as a part-time janitor while in high school and even after graduation from UW.”

Growing Up “Marginalized”

Growing up in Seattle, her family was poor, living in Seattle’s housing projects, Holly Park and New Holly. “But, I was so fortunate to have been given the opportunities to attend leadership and tutoring programs when I was in middle school. These programs were made possible by non-profits like Atlantic Street Center, Filipino Community Center, and Catholic Community Services in our community.”

As Kim-Khanh was the English to Vietnamese communicator for her mother and oldest brother, she also translated the law to them when learning about how systems here worked. Because of her experiences in learning about the law, she pursued a law degree. She was the first in her family to attend a four year university, graduate from college, and then law school. Because of her religious upbringing, the generosity of charitable programs, the affordable housing in safe environments that she depended upon, she has a passion for justice and to pay it forward.

Kim Khanh Van: Paying It Forward

  • Renton Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force
  • Rotary International, Renton Club
  • Northwest Immigrants Rights Project (NWIRP)
  • OneAmerica Citizenship Day Clinics
  • The Seattle Stand Down (Veteran’s group)
  • Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment (APACE)
  • 33rd Democrat Legislative District
  • WA State Association for Justice (WASJ- Bar)
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association, WA Chapter (AILA-Bar)
  • Minh Duc Vietnamese Language School at Seattle Cao Dai Temple
  • Vietnamese American Community of Seattle, Snohomish & King Counties
  • Hosted “Yes, I Have Rights” workshops at Goodwill Education Center and Consejo Counseling
  • Hosted benefit events for:
    • Nepal Earthquake Victims (2015)
    • Wounded Warrior (2015)
    • Standing Rock(2016)
    • Hurricane Maria Victims in Puerto Rico, USA (2017)
  • Boat People SOS and Human Rights For Vietnam Sister Group
  • King County Legal Clinics
  • Co-founded Vietnamese Language School at Tacoma Cao Dai Temple
  • Co-founded United Cao Dai Youth Network

Education

Kim-Khanh Van graduated from James A. Garfield (Bulldogs) in 2003. During her high school years, she enrolled in Upward Bound, a college prepatory program and the Running Start College Program at Seattle Central Community College (SCCC).

In 2006, Kim-Khanh obtained two Bachelors of Arts degrees: Law, Societies, & Justice, and Sociology, from University of Washington in Seattle.  She graduated from the law program at University of Dayton School of Law in 2011.

Awards

  • Law School: CALI Award in Racism Class, Social Justice Scholarship, and Legal Opportunity Scholarship
  • United CaoDai Youth Network Annual Appreciation Award (2x)
  • Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority at UW – Alumnae Service Award (4x)
  • Annual Pro Bono Award of Appreciation from American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA-WA)
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu Emgerging Leaders Award
  • National Women Political Caucus Campaign Heroines (WA Chapter)

Personal

In 2013, Kim-Khanh married Bijoy Bordoloi, a Senior Manager in a Technology firm and Computer Science engineering graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. They have two children, Kairav who is almost four years old, and Karishma who is 13 months old. They enjoy playing at Renton’s parks, attending cultural events, reading, and putting puzzles together as a family.