By Keish Kim | New Organizing Project blogger
As an intern at the Korean Resource Center, I see so many phone calls coming in asking for assistance about deferred action. For this week, I thought why not share the experience of the expert on KRC’s deferred action hotline, Mr. Harry Lee.
Harry is our civic participation intern at KRC but has also been helping out with deferred action. He can speak fluently in both Korean and English so he has played a crucial role in our KRC family. Today, I have asked Harry to take some time out of his hectic schedule so I can ask him some questions about what it’s been like to take on the deferred action hotline. He was kind enough to spare few minutes for our NOP3 readers. ^^
Q: What has been your role in regards todeferred action at KRC?
A: As a KRC intern and undocumented immigrant who is eligible for deferred action, I think my role in KRC is special to me in many ways. Because I am undocumented and because I understand the realities many undocumented immigrants experience, I am able to assist the Korean American community with all my heart. I get a lot of calls from concerned students and parents who are worried and are in pain even after this huge accomplishment [deferred action announcement] has been made. I truly appreciate the fact that I can address those people who have the same needs as me.
Q: When you are taking those calls from community members, are they mostly youth? Parents? Why do you think that is?
A: Surprisingly, it’s mostly parents. I wondered why there were so many calls from parents instead of the direct beneficiaries (students). I thought there would be a great number of calls from students because a majority of them can speak English and therefore have more access to resources. But I think one of the reasons why there’s a high volume of calls from parents is because parents of undocumented youth tend to feel responsible for their children’s undocumented status.
Q: What kind of questions do you mostly receive?
A: The question I receive the most is what documentation should I start preparing for the deferred action application?
Q: Do you think many Korean Americans in the LA area are well aware of the deferred action announcement?
A: I think Korean Americans in the LA area are very well aware of the deferred action announcement. A good amount of Korean Americans are sensitive about the issue of undocumented immigrants since there are many of them. LA has a tightly knit Korean community so local media coverage and other immigrant rights organization do a good job to keep our community members informed.
Surprisingly, many may not be aware that one out of seven Korean Americans is undocumented. The deferred action announcement definitely was a big deal among Korean American community.
Q: As community organizers and service providers, what can we do to better serve our communities?
A: I think improving communication is the number one priority in order to better serve our community. Although KRC has done a good job providing services to our communities thus far, we need to continue to work on how we can reach out and provide resources for those who cannot come to KRC during 9-5 business hours.
Q: What does August 15th mean to you and KRC? What does it mean to the Korean immigrant community?
A: August 15th is a huge stepping stone for the Korean immigrant community, but at the same time, it means we have a lot more to fight for. I think our immigrant community accomplished a great deal. However, it is not the permanent fix. I think Korean Americans should realize that deferred action is only temporary and we need a permanent fix for our broken immigration system in order to protect immigrants’ rights.
Q: What are you anticipating from the August 1st announcement? What is KRC planning to do to prep for august 15th?
A: I am excited for the August 1st announcement, because I think a lot of unclear parts regarding the deferred action policy will be clarified by DHS. For instance, many young undocumented immigrants have been wondering if certain criminal records, even minor ones, will automatically disqualify them. They are dying to know if they can get a driver’s license or if they can travel outside of the States. I think most of the undocumented youth are in the same boat as me.
With that said, KRC is planning many things to prepare for August 15th. We are planning to have legal clinics a week before August 15, so applicants have their documents ready to go as soon as August 15th hits. At the clinic, we will have attorneys review applicants’ applications and advise them if they lack of any documentation.
While August 1st and 15th may seem like daunting days for many organizations out there, I think it is so great to see that in LA, Korean Americans have the option to stop by or call in to schedule a meeting to go over documents for deferred action.
As my days at KRC pass by, and I hear, see, and meet those confused, concerned community members seeking help and guidance here, I often wonder about Georgia. I can’t help but think about Georgia. Where are the concerned, confused, afraid undocumented families going for help? What hotlines are they calling? Where are the resources they can tap into with trust? What about other states who are in similar positions to Georgia?
So it seem, my blog post always ends with unanswered questions. But they are questions we must all reflect back on and challenge ourselves with. What can we do better to provide these resources for our communities? And more importantly, how can we fight back to protect our rights?
For now, we must pick out our battle gear and prepare for the incoming calls for help!
Till next time ~