By Doo Yong Shim | New Organizing Project blogger
It’s been a little more than 30 days since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, made an announcement on deferred action. Now, the USCIS has less than 30 days to finalize processes to accept applications. As someone who grew up in the DC-MD-VA area, seeing and experiencing immigration struggles, and as a NAKASEC intern, I suggested that we gather Korean American community members to one place for a community forum in the area on deferred action. This would be my first foray into community organizing.
I’ve learned over the last few weeks that community organizing includes multiple processes – from deciding on the audience and speakers to preparing presentation materials to setting the time and place to working on a time frame. And most important to bring everyone together. But as a first-time organizer, especially for an organization that is still in the process of building relationships with Korean American community members in the area, my biggest concern and challenge for this project was ensuring that community members would attend.
Journalists from major Korean American media outlets, The Korea Times, The Korea Daily, WKTV, and Radio Washington advertised the event through newspapers, radio, and television. Nonetheless, as this was done just three days before the actual event, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by an unnecessary fear that not a lot of people would attend the event. At first, I wanted this event to happen so that people who are still unaware about Deferred Action could get the information they need. Among many thoughts, the one that kept popping up was: “If this event does not bring enough people, it would be a shame.”
The obsession on the number of attendees became so great that I was slowly forgetting about the most important objective of this information session. At one point between one of the three days prior to the event, I wanted to halt the progress and push it to a later time to have more time to prepare and advertise more widely because I was so overwhelmed by the information and preparations that still needed to be completed. The preparation progress seemed nowhere close to the finish line.
But I could not easily let go of this event because as someone who has seen and experienced immigration struggles, I knew how much people would be desperate for any kind of information. I also realized that my aim for this event was not in the number of attendees, but on the quality of the information session and providing information that people could benefit from. With these thoughts, I reminded myself that I should continue to fight through any potential breakdowns and worked days and nights.
The day came, and despite the worry, more than our expected number of people attended the forum. The time frame and workload were uncontrollable, but regardless of some inflexible factors, organizing an information session for people in need was very critical and the least I could do for the Korean American community.
After it was over, I reflected about the last few weeks. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that organizing is tough. It requires a lot of hands and effort. Through this one experience, I was able to think further on my vision for immigrants in the U.S. It may be challenging, but I hope to continue to take a part in immigrant issues and organize for my community.