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Call for Immigration Reform to Reunify Korean American Families

By March 30, 2006 No Comments

Issued Jointly with the Asian American Justice Center

                                 Contacts: Eun Sook Lee, 323. 937. 3703        
                                 Adlai Amor, 202. 296. 2300 x 135

NAKASEC, AAJC Call for Immigration Reform
To Reunify Korean American Families

Washington, D.C., Nov. 10, 2005 — The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and the Asian American Justice today called for comprehensive reform to fix the country’s broken immigration system and reunite Korean American families.

According to the 2000 Census, approximately 78 percent of the 1.2 million Koreans living in the U.S. are immigrants, with more than two-thirds of them arriving only after 1980.  Majority immigrated through family immigration. In 2004, family-sponsored immigrants accounted for 56% of all Korean immigrants.

“It can sometimes take over a decade for Koreans to immigrate to the U.S. through the family immigration system,” said Eun Sook Lee, executive director of NAKASEC. “Unless you have a qualified U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member who can petition for you or you have specialized skills, it is virtually impossible for Koreans to legally immigrate to the U.S.”

Due in part to this difficulty, the population of undocumented Koreans living in the U.S. continues to rise. In 2000, the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that there were 55,000 undocumented Korean immigrants. However, other studies for the same period indicated that 190,000 or roughly one in six Korean Americans do not have legal immigration status.  

As a result, they are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation at the workplace. Undocumented Korean children who grow up in the U.S. do not have access to post-secondary education or legal work opportunities in their fields of choice.  

“Under the current system, no matter how hard they work, no matter how much they contribute to our economy and communities, these undocumented immigrants will never be fully integrated in our society,” said Traci Hong, director of AAJC’s immigration program. “We need comprehensive immigration reform to timely reunify Korean American families and to provide legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented Koreans.”

There are currently several bills pending in Congress, including the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, introduced by Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy, which tries to address the country’s immigration problems.

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