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[Press Release] Korean Americans, Asian Americans Drive Immigration Debate to Focus on Family.

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Download “Our Families, Our Voices’ Report – nakasec.org/cir

 

Press Release

March 21, 2013

Contact: Jane Yoo, NAKASEC | jyoo@nakasec.org | 202.630.4013

Korean Americans, Asian Americans Drive
Immigration Debate to Focus on Family.

Latest Proposal that Reduces Family Visa Program Unacceptable. Communities Watching and Ready to Take Action as Policymakers Discuss Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation.

Washington D.C. – The latest development in the much anticipated introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform bill from Congress falls drastically short of what immigrant communities are demanding in a comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The latest proposal seeks to reduce family visas, eliminating the ability for American citizens to sponsor their siblings and adult children for legal permanent residence.

The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and its affiliates the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC) in Chicago and the Korean Resource Center (KRC) in Los Angeles are disappointed and outraged by these proposals that sacrifice immigrant families in the name of economic prosperity.

“The latest proposal goes against everything our communities have worked for in the past decade and restricts the definition of family,” said Son Ah Yun, executive director of NAKASEC. “Our communities are diverse and their immigration experiences are unique. What we need is legislation that reflects this diversity and puts families first. That includes a strengthening, not weakening, of the family visa program.”

In a report released today by NAKASEC titled “Our Families, Our Voices” {download here: nakasec.org/cir} three out of four Asian Americans are foreign born and in the Korean American community, 63% are immigrants. The Korean American undocumented population has risen by 31% between 2000 and 2011 making it the 8th largest undocumented population in the US. In 2012, 1.8 million people who were stuck in immigration backlogs were from Asian countries — 36,361 of whom were immigrants from Korea waiting an average of 10 years to reunite with their loved ones.

“Here in Chicago we see firsthand how our community is deeply impacted by our flawed immigration system,” said Sik Son, executive director of KRCC. “There are undocumented immigrants who work low-wage jobs and are at risk of being deported, youth whose futures remain uncertain and families who are caught in backlogs. We also have families who had few viable options to come and stay in this country and teeter on the brink of becoming undocumented.”

Mr. Jong Sung Kang is one of the many community members that KRCC comes into contact on a daily basis. After realizing that family sponsorship may take up to 10 years, Mr. Kang’s family made the difficult decision to come to the US on a tourist visa. “As the visa’s expiration date drew near, we needed to find another visa to stay in the U.S. legally,” said Mr. Kang. “With no option to turn to, we used our life savings to apply for an E-2 investor visa and open up a small nail shop with our life savings. We have to renew every two years and now have spent over $15,000 in fees. The economy is bad and I have taken up for second job working in a restaurant. But things don’t look good for us. We are terrified of losing our legal status.”

In Los Angeles, KRC also sees youth, seniors and families who struggle with the current immigration system. However, they have also witnessed the community emerging as one of the strongest voices for immigrant rights. Most recently, young undocumented Korean Americans have been vocal, helping to lead the charge in advocating for humane and sensible reforms.

Min Ji Lee is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and one of the many active young people who are joining the efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform bill this year. “I came to the United States when I was just 3 years old. My mother worked long hours so that we can settle in the US and set our roots here. She didn’t rest until enough money was saved to hire a lawyer to assist with our immigration paperwork. But complications with our green card process that left us undocumented. Most recently, I received my DACA approval, but my mom’s future is still uncertain. I need to make sure my mom is protected and so I joined efforts to advocate for immigration reform.”

Adds Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of KRC, “Every year, our community is growing in numbers, in strength and in electoral presence. We also have bold voices that are bringing fresh energy to our work on immigration reform. We’ve been a force that has shaped the national narrative. Our communities are watching and they are ready to hold policymakers accountable.”

NAKASEC and affiliates are working towards a comprehensive immigration bill that:

  • Provides a meaningful path to citizenship that is clear, direct and inclusive for all undocumented immigrants and their families.
  • Keeps all families together by preserving the family immigration system and eliminating the immigration backlogs.
  • Protects all workers regardless of their immigration status.
  • Stops mandatory and indefinite detentions and cruel deportations for minor infractions and protect and restore basic rights and liberties, including allowing every person to have their day in court.
  • Promotes the social, economic and political integration of immigrants and their children.

To read more stories of community members impacted by the immigration system and the demographic transformation happening in the US that shows the strength of our communities, download NAKASEC’s “Our Families, Our Voices” report at: nakasec.org/cir

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The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) was founded in 1994 by local community centers to project a national progressive voice and promote the full participation of Korean Americans as a part of a greater goal of building a national movement for social change. NAKASEC is based D.C. and Los Angeles.  NAKASEC also has affiliates in Chicago (Korean American Resource & Cultural Center) and Los Angeles (Korean Resource Center).

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