By Keish Kim | New Organizing Project blogger
Recently, “Hello, this is KRC hotline, how may I help you?” was the phrase of the week for a few of us working at the Korean Resource Center in LA. Well, it was actually in Korean so it went like this “안녕하세요 민족학교 핫라인 입니다, 어떡해 도와드릴까요?”
After the additional information on deferred action was released on August 3rd (instead of original proposed August 1stdate), the Korean Resource Center set up a hotline call system to answer questions from concerned community members in the LA area. Once Monday, August 6th rolled around, I don’t think many of the staff, including myself, expected so many calls. Or rather, maybe we weren’t prepared for such a huge influx of calls. Harry and I took on about 120 calls that day. I have never in my whole 20-year life, answered that many calls or had to talk on the phone for that long. Talk about a long week.
Aside from my mindless whining, I had noticed from those hundreds of calls this past week that most callers were Korean-speaking parents.
And I started to wonder, why is that?
Deferred action is directed towards young people. Among many other requirements, young people who are under 30 have to fit the eligibility of high school graduates or have a GED. The fact that they have the tools and resources to speak the English language should hypothetically enable them to find out information about deferred action anywhere. Even by simply Googling deferred action, they have access to the USCIS website, which is the most credible source for deferred action.
But why is it that, every time I pick up the phone call, it is a voice of a concerned parent who is desperate for any kind of aid?
I had a moment when I was frustrated with youth I have never even met and I started to reevaluate and reflect back on myself. It may just be that these youth lack the space where the topic of immigration is discussed – where they are not discouraged to search on their own what deferred action is, and what this means for them. Sometimes, undocumented youth are so busy trying to blend in and assimilate into American society that deferred action and their status is something they want to escape.
So concerned parents do the best they can and read the Korean newspaper daily where their only source of information is shared.
This is why we need a strong youth network. Where the topic of immigration and information sessions on deferred action are easily accessible even to Asian Pacific Islander American Youth. Where an Asian American youth can scroll through their Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter and see one or two of their friends post up a picture or link with someone who looks like them talking about deferred action and immigration.
It is about creating space. Space for API undocumented youth.
I want more interest and initiative from our youth. I want them to call KRC, set up appointments or ask for resources on their own. In English or Korean. That way, KRC don’t have to get worked up when finding enough Korean speaking volunteers to help us out 😉 and more importantly, I want this deferred action initiative to be a chance where API undocumented young people become empowered to stand up for themselves and talk about how this band-aid of temporary relief is NOT enough. That our parents’ rights and safety needs to be protected too.
It is time for us to stand up for them as well as our own selves.