Congress is back and we’re greeting them with an action! It’s called “Relief, Respect, Reform” planned for tomorrow, Wednesday, September 15, aiming to get 1,100 civic and faith leaders to convene for immigration reform. The number 1,100 has deeper meaning – it’s the number of immigrants being deported daily and also the number of hours left to Election Day.
Among those who are attending is Reverend EunSang Lee, a Korean American pastor with the 1st United Methodist Church, an immigrant-led, diverse English-speaking congregation in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had the chance to interview him before he left for Washington D.C.
How does religion support progressive views and values?
As a Christian, I believe in basic human rights for all children of God, especially those who are poor, marginalized, voiceless and powerless. The Bible tells us of examples of injustices, and it encourages us to fight against them. For instance, in the Book of Exodus, people of Israel were once enslaved and were liberated because injustice was recognized and fought against.
Is there a particular Bible verse you like to refer to when talking about immigration reform?
One verse that comes to mind is Leviticus 19:33-34. Also throughout the Old Testament, God constantly tells people not to give Him hollow worship, but to support and protect the poor, orphans and widows who are around you. These are constant reminders of why I am supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
Do you think Christians and other people of faith should care about immigration?
Yes, definitely. The heart of religion is protecting life against injustices and understanding that we are all equal. If one person or one particular group of people is suffering from oppression, it affects the whole of humanity.
Can you tell us a bit about how the student movement in South Korea affected you?
During the 1970s, there was a strong student movement called the Youth and Student Coalition for Democracy. However, I wasn’t actively involved. But, later when my friends got arrested and were tortured for fighting for democracy and change, the movement became great inspiration to me. It made me think deeply about the political situation in South Korea and I came across questions about life in general.
How did coming to America heal the wounds from being politically suffocated to having your family being politically persecuted?
After immigrating to the U.S., I became involved with Young Koreans United (YKU) that provided me with the framework in which I was able to understand my own personal experience. I gained a deeper understanding of life and the ability to see the bigger picture.
What would you say to those who have opposing views or simply have different viewpoints on immigration?
Immigration has broader ties to how the world economy works. We all have to understand why people immigrate, and we have to understand this in the mind and heart. We also have to be positive. When referring to undocumented immigrants as “illegal immigrants”, it brings on a negative tone that doesn’t do much to contribute to a healthy dialogue. The concept of “I came here legally and they didn’t” is more complicated than stated and can be argued in several ways, including from when pilgrims first set foot in the new land and when slavery was tolerated. It just doesn’t do much when we view the issue with such a narrowly focused lens. We must see how immigration impacts us and our society positively and move forward.
What would you like to see happen in the next 20 years?
I want to see empowerment of all people. I would like to see more people get more involved in demanding justice and equality. It would also be great to see more Asian Americans as public servants. I think this could be one way people can have respect and appreciation for the Asian American community. If we can achieve an end of division among people according to race, gender and sexuality, that would be beautiful to see. I would like to see a world where my grandson doesn’t have to fight against injustices we’ve been fighting for decades.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
I will be 60 next year, but I have so much hope for younger generations, including young people who I got to know from NAKASEC. I am very inspired by people like you, and I want to help in many ways. Remember, the future is yours and you can make a difference.
If you haven’t read his op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune this past Sunday, click here!
Thank and support Reverend Lee and other leaders as they travel to Washington D.C. for immigration reform! Share his insight by tweeting the following:
Support Rev. Lee as he goes to DC for #immigration reform! Share Q & A by #nakasec #NOPit blogger @juhong89 http://ow.ly/2DYEZ Pls RT!