Indonesian Americans

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Indonesian Americans
Orang Amerika Indonesia
Total population
189,220 (2017)
121,500 single responses
65,720 multiple responses
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups
Other Asian Americans

Indonesian Americans (Indonesian: Orang Amerika Indonesia) are migrants from the multiethnic country of Indonesia to the United States, and their U.S.-born descendants.[1] In both the 2000 and 2010 United States Census, they were the 15th largest group of Asian Americans recorded in the United States as well as one of the fastest growing.[2][3]



Indonesian international students came to the United States in significant numbers as early as the mid-1950s, beginning with a 1953 International Cooperation Administration (now U.S. Agency for International Development) program to allow University of Indonesia medical faculty to pursue higher studies at the University of California, Berkeley.[1] Permanent settlement in the U.S. began to grow in 1965, due to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened the door to Asian immigration, and the violent and chaotic Transition to the New Order in Indonesia, which spurred emigration from that country.[4] Between 1980 and 1990, the number of Indonesians in the United States tripled, reaching 30,085.[5] A large proportion live in Southern California: 29,710 respondents to the 2000 census who listed "Indonesian" as one of their ethnicities lived there.[4]

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of census respondents identifying themselves as Indonesian (either alone or in combination with other responses) grew by 51% from 63,073 to 95,270.[2][3]

Chinese Indonesian asylum seekers[edit]

Active lobbying of politicians by Chinese American groups contributed to an unusually high number of successful Chinese Indonesian applicants for political asylum to the United States in 1998. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 7,359 applicants were granted asylee status and 5,848 were denied in the decade up to 2007. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly difficult for applicants to prove to immigration officials that they would face targeted violence if returned to Indonesia.[6]

In 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Sael v. Ashcroft that a Chinese Indonesian couple was eligible for political asylum after citing the existence of anti-Chinese violence and of laws that prohibit Chinese schools and institutions.[7][8] The same court in the following year granted Marjorie Lolong eligibility for asylum after finding that she is "a member of [women and Christian] sub-groups that are at a substantially greater risk of persecution than the [ethnic Chinese] group as a whole."[9] However, the court reversed its findings through an en banc decision and stated that it understood the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) "decision to preclude a general grant of asylum to Indonesian Chinese Christians." The dissenting opinion criticized the BIA's rejection of testimony regarding the Indonesian government's inability to control persecution despite its intentions.[10]



The first Indonesians to move to Southern California were Indos (Indonesians of mixed Native Indonesian and European descent).[11] However, the majority of Indonesians who came in the 1960s were of Chinese descent.[12] Unofficial estimates suggest that as many as 60% of the Indonesians in Southern California are of Chinese descent.[13] Interracial marriage is not uncommon, especially among the young, though the elderly often prefer that their children marry other Indonesian or Chinese.[14]


A large proportion of Indonesians in the U.S. are Christians, though Muslims are also present.[13] The first Indonesian church in the U.S. was a Seventh-day Adventist Church established in Glendale, California in 1972 with a predominantly Indo congregation (now located in Azusa, CA); however, as more pribumi migrants joined the church, racial tensions arose, and the Indos withdrew to other churches. The second Indonesian church to be founded in the U.S. was a Baptist church, started by an ethnic Chinese pastor and with a predominantly ethnic Chinese congregation.[15] By 1988, there were 14 Indonesian Protestant congregations; ten years later, that number had grown to 41, with two Indonesian Catholic congregations as well.[16]

The first Indonesian Mosque in the US was the Al-Hikmah Mosque founded in Astoria, New York, which is currently headed by Shamsi Ali.[17][18] In 2017, the Indonesian Muslim community in Los Angeles purchased a former church at 1200 Kenmore Avenue and converted it into At-Thohir Mosque.[19][20] There is also an Indonesian mosque in Silver Spring, Maryland named the IMAAM Center.[21]


Roughly one of every eight Indonesian Americans worked as a cook, waiter, or waitress.[22]


Indonesians have founded a number of publications in California. The earliest was the Indonesian Journal, founded in 1988, and published primarily in the Indonesian language.[5] Others include the Loma Linda-based Actual Indonesia News (founded 1996, also in Indonesian), and the Glendora-based Indonesia Media (founded 1998).[5] Los Angeles-based monthly The Indonesia Letter has the largest circulation.[23]

Notable people[edit]

Arts and entertainment[edit]

Business and technology[edit]

Literature and media[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Yang 2001, pp. 898–899
  2. ^ a b "Race Reporting for the Asian Population by Selected Categories: 2010", 2010 Census Summary File 1, U.S. Census Bureau, archived from the original on 2016-10-12, retrieved 2012-02-21
  3. ^ a b Barnes & Bennett 2002, p. 9
  4. ^ a b Cunningham 2009, p. 93
  5. ^ a b c Cunningham 2009, p. 92
  6. ^ Sukmana 2009
  7. ^ Egelko, Bob (15 October 2004), "Ethnic Chinese from Indonesia wins appeal", San Francisco Chronicle, p. A2, retrieved 26 January 2010
  8. ^ Sael v. Ashcroft, 386 F.3d 922 (9d Cir. 14 October 2004).
  9. ^ Lolong v. Gonzales, 400 F.3d 1215 (9d Cir. 18 March 2005).
  10. ^ Lolong v. Gonzales, 484 F.3d 1173 (9d Cir. 7 May 2007).
  11. ^ Cunningham 2009, p. 97
  12. ^ Yang 2001, p. 899
  13. ^ a b Cunningham 2009, p. 95
  14. ^ Yang 2001, p. 902
  15. ^ Cunningham 2009, pp. 97–98
  16. ^ Cunningham 2009, p. 98
  17. ^ "Masjid Al-Hikmah – Faiths and Freedom". Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  18. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  19. ^ "Mesjid At-Thohir Los Angeles". VOA Indonesia (in Indonesian). Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  20. ^ "Cerita di Balik Masjid Bersalib di Los Angeles". Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Indonesian immigrants". Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  23. ^ Yang 2001, p. 904
  24. ^ a b c Born in Indonesia.
  25. ^ "Eddie and Alex Van Halen talk about their Indonesian mother's influence – bigWOWO". Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  26. ^ Halen, Van (5 February 2012). "VH Interviews". Archived from the original on 4 June 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2017 – via Vimeo.


  • Yang, Eveline. "Indonesian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2014P, pp. 401-411. online
  • Barnes, Jessica S.; Bennett, Claudette E. (February 2002), The Asian Population: 2000 (PDF), U.S. Census 2000, U.S. Department of Commerce, retrieved 2009-09-30
  • Cunningham, Clark E. (2009), "Unity and Diversity among Indonesian Migrants to the United States", in Ling, Huping (ed.), Emerging Voices: Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans, Rutgers University Press, pp. 90–125, ISBN 978-0-8135-4342-0
  • Sukmana, Damai (January 2009), "Game of Chance: Chinese Indonesians Play Asylum Roulette in the United States", Inside Indonesia, 95, ISSN 0814-1185, archived from the original on 25 April 2009, retrieved 31 January 2010

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]