On Saturday, April 10, generations of Korean Americans hit the road, chanted, and participated in rallies sponsored by the Reform Immigration For America campaign, as part of a penultimate push to introduce comprehensive legislation to reform our country’s immigration system this year. In Las Vegas and in Chicago, the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and its two affiliates the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) in Chicago and the Korean Resource Center (KRC) in Los Angeles were present.
From Chicago, KRCC Executive Director Sik Son reports that Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) looked determined and encouraged. He talked about the DREAM Act and shared strong words on the need to work on immigration reform now; the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) had been pushing hard before the rally. Representative Schakowsky (D-IL) also joined the stage in Chicago. One Korean American woman brought her nephews to the rally, and remarked that “it was very powerful to hear the determination from the community!”
Working parent and KRC Program Director Hee Joo Yoon said Saturday’s Las Vegas rally was a good opportunity to bring the community together for immigration reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would pass immigration reform by end of year, but she says “it’s not enough. Our message is that the time is now and we can’t wait….We need them to do more.”
In Las Vegas, KRC’s Ba Ram So Ri drumming troupe performed and KRC student leader David Cho welcomed the crowd from the stage. David Cho said, “It felt great to represent one of the few Asian American groups that are fighting for immigration reform; an issue important not only to Latino but also to Asian American families out there. Going forward, dealing with the broken immigration system and being progressive about it, I was very fortunate” and grateful for the opportunity.
Afterwards, David stressed that “Asian Americans need to get out of the stereotypical culture/identity and help other people out. Don’t be selfish – it’s for your benefit. So many citizens and non-citizens are helping undocumented students. There needs to be more Asian American students out there.”
Several elder members of KRC’s Community Health Promotors and working parents also participated in the rally of close to 10,000 people. On the ride back to Los Angeles, one person per group shared their thoughts – including DREAM Team LA, SEIU ULTCW, COFEM and LA VOICE who rode the same bus with us.
Mr. Cho, a senior citizen leader at KRC said, “I will continue this fight for immigration reform.”
Ba Ram So Ri member and 8th grader Justin was attentive throughout the three-hour rally and listened to all the speakers. He said it was an honor to play on stage and represent our community.
To be part of this diverse political movement that also works with elected officials was also impressive to Justin. It seemed to him that the rally was successful and he hoped that immigration reform would be just as successful.
Other younger members most remembered the speeches from the young people, especially the brave young girl who shared how it felt when her father was taken away from her by ICE agents.”
The interactive chanting, performances and personal stories resonated most strongly with our Las Vegas participants. KRC’s Yongho Kim reports that the Korean American senior citizens seemed particularly interested when he interpreted for them a story of a military veteran who was assigned in Iraq for a couple of months. The veteran was attacked in a town and some of his colleagues died. He himself ended with a semi-permanent arm injury; he thought that people should have the right to vote and he felt so during the 2008 presidential primaries. Later, one of his colleagues in the Marines found out that he was not a citizen and helped him apply for citizenship.
One of the most meaningful aspects of the day for NAKASEC’s Olivia Park was having personal conversations with regional organizers from the Reform Immigration For America and the United Farm Workers. She said, “We are continuing the momentum and not stopping.”