Few published histories examine Thai Americans and Thai–US migration. This essay addresses that paucity and explores Thai–US migration in the 1960s. A narrative of trauma exists around Southeast Asian US migration history, wherein the United States is positioned as a final destination of hope and settlement. Thai-US migration in the 1960s does not fit into this narrative. This is a case study of Thai students in American universities and Thai employees of the Peace Corps. Thais came to the United States voluntarily, as university students, as professionals, and as tourists. Their journeys to the United States were circular by design. Thai and US Cold War concerns created legal pathways for Thai student migration to the United States to achieve these objectives. These same mechanisms created economic and social incentives to return home: high-paying jobs in a burgeoning economy and the social prestige of international travel. Cold War geo-politics circumvented hostile US immigration policies and permitted Thai students’ entry into the United States, but their pre-existing elite status, potential for personal profit, and civic duties induced them to return. These factors shaped Thai–US migration as temporary and circular.

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