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Protecting Family Unity Within CIR

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By JeeYeun Lee

I was asked a lot of questions these past couple of days. Everything from “were you nervous?” to “what was it like?” But there was one that almost everyone seemed to be curious about — “Why did you participate in the civil disobedience action?”

Well, there were the obvious answers. I’m an immigrant. My family came to Chicago when I was 9 years old. I saw first hand how my parents struggled navigating the complex immigration system. We were initially able to come on my father’s student visa, but we didn’t have many options to stay in the U.S. permanently. With some help from people at church, we were able to apply for legal permanent residency and eventually naturalize. Everyone’s immigration story is different, and for many families they don’t have endings such as mine.

But I think more than my roots as an immigrant, I participated in the action because I could. Not many people make the connection that the act of doing can actually change laws. I want my community to believe that. And finally, of course, I am tired of waiting for real reforms.

It was cold on Friday in downtown Chicago, but the energy was incredible. The crowd was diverse and the unity unbreakable. The stories that were shared made it clear that this is not some abstract, theoretical, policy-only driven discussion. This is about real people and real families.

We’re tired of waiting for Congress to get their act together and pass comprehensive immigration reform. And as if keeping us waiting wasn’t bad enough, now a few in Congress think it’s ok to keep families apart by reducing the family visa program and not dealing with the backlogs that have kept families apart for years, even decades.

This is unacceptable. Friday was civil disobedience. Tomorrow, next week, next month will be some other act. I won’t stop until I see comprehensive immigration reform legislation that makes sure families are kept together.

 

Jee Yeun Lee participated in the civil disobedience action organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights on Friday in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building to demand legislation for comprehensive immigration reform. She is a 1.5 generation Korean American and a volunteer with the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center.

 



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