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Building America’s Future Together: Immigration Reform Now (Asian Pacific American Mobilization for Immigration Reform, April 30 – May 1, 2007)

By April 27, 2007 No Comments

For Immediate Release:
Contacts:
Sookyung Oh, (267) 334. 5918, English
DaeJoong Yoon (213) 434. 4267, Korean
Kathy Chae (646) 761. 6027, Spanish

April 27, 2007

“Building America’s Future Together: Immigration Reform Now!”
National Mobilization of Asian Pacific Americans

April 30 – May 1, 2007 in Washington, DC

During this critical moment of deliberations on an immigration reform bill, approximately 400 Asian Pacific Americans from 25 states across the country will gather in Washington, DC. Participants for this national two-day gathering are coming to send a clear message to Congress and the White House that today’s dysfunctional immigration system must be fixed. The rally on May 1st also marks the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and MayDay.

Planned events:
April 30, 2007
COMMUNITY DIALOGUES
4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Chinese Community Church, 500 I Street, NW
Featuring cultural performances, clips of “Sentenced Home,” “Whose Children Are These?” and “April 10, 2006,” discussion on how potential new immigration laws will impact APA communities, and a legislative briefing.

May 1, 2007
PRESS CONFERENCE
11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Taft Memorial Park, Constitution Avenue between New Jersey Avenue & First Avenue, NW
Featuring Floyd Mori (Japanese American Citizen’s League), Michael Lin (Organization of Chinese Americans), Reverend Yvonne YoungJa Koh from Colorado, and testimonies from individuals impacted by the broken immigration system. The event will be moderated by EunSook Lee (National Korean American Service & Education Consortium).

RALLY
12 p.m. – 1 p.m.
Taft Memorial Park, Constitution Avenue between New Jersey Avenue & First Avenue, NW
Featuring all faith Asian Pacific American benediction, Representative Mike Honda (Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus), Deepak Bhargava (Center for Community Change), SJ Jung (YKASEC – Empowering the Korean American Community), and cultural performances. Emceed by Jon Melegrito (Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO) and Becky Belcore (Korean American Resource & Cultural Center of Chicago).

Convening organizations:
Asian American Justice Center, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA, AFL-CIO), Japanese American Citizens League, Korean American Resource & Cultural Center of Chicago, Korean Resource Center of Los Angeles, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, National Federation of Filipino American Associations, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, Organization of Chinese Americans, South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, YKASEC-Empowering the Korean American Community of New York

NOTE TO EDITORS: Attached are profiles of community members who are currently affected by our immigration laws and will be present during the two-day mobilization to be available for interview.
Asian Pacific American Community Members Impacted by Broken Immigration System

Kannie Yoon is 24 years old and came to the US as a young teen. Since she was a child, Kannie knew she wanted to become an artist. “Status” meant nothing to Kannie until she reached 18 years old and began to face a series of almost insurmountable obstacles in achieving her fullest potential. “What makes me suffer the most is the fact that I am staying in this country as an undocumented immigrant. I had no choice when I came here. While I was not realizing, I became criminalized. The more I think about my situation, and the situation of so many students across this nation, I feel that the immigration laws in this country should be addressed,” says Kannie.

Nearly 65,000 DREAM Act eligible students graduate each year. How much longer does Kannie have to wait?

Song Sun Pak’s wife is 61 years old and his mother-in-law is 83 years old. Eight years ago, Song Sun filed a petition for his ailing mother-in-law to join them here in the United States because she was alone in Korea and needed help to take care of herself. They are still waiting and in the meantime, Mr. Pak’s wife goes back and forth between Korea and the United States to take care of her sick mother. Asian Pacific Americans face the longest family immigration backlogs and currently two million are stuck. “Being with your loved ones is a human right,” says Song Sun. How much longer does Song Sun’s mother have to wait?

Sunny Chang is a pastor’s wife who was mobilized into action when two members of her church youth group (undocumented sisters aged 13 and 16) were refused admittance to two different public schools in Beverly Hills. Angered that youth were being denied the right to an education, Sunny worked with the Korean Resource Center and the American Civil Liberties Union to expose the injustice. As a result of the hard work and courage of Sunny and the two young students, Beverly Hills Unified School District accepted the two youth. Until our immigration system is fixed, many individuals and local town & cities will take it upon themselves to deny basic rights to undocumented immigrants. How much longer before this system gets fixed?

Contacts: Sookyung Oh, Immigrant Rights Project Coordinator, Nat’l Korean American Service & Education Consortium
Tel. 323. 937. 3703 x 206 / soh@nakasec.org
Spanish language contact: Kathy Chae, 646. 761. 6027 / kathychae@gmail.com
Korean language contact: Young Sun Song, 773. 510. 0907 / youngsun@chicagokrcc.org

Keo Chea came to this country in 1981 as a baby with only her mother, her older sister and her older brother who was four. Life was tough growing up in the U.S. as refugees living in impoverished neighborhoods. On his 18th birthday, her brother was arrested with four other peers for crimes he committed as a kid. The family was given bad advice by their lawyer who chose to have her brother tried as an adult rather than a juvenile. Her brother was sentenced to the state penitentiary while his peers were given three years in the California Youth Authority.

While in prison, her brother tutored other incarcerated individuals and received a scholarship to attend San Francisco State University. Unfortunately, he was never given this opportunity. Immediately upon his release, immigrations officials detained him in lieu of deportation to Cambodia. For the next three years, Keo’s family lived in a state of limbo not knowing whether her brother would be deported in the next month or spend the rest of his life in detention. Finally, in August 2004, her brother was deported to the war-torn country they fled from twenty-three years earlier.

Keo’s family was never informed of the immigration consequences. Her brother was never given a second chance for a mistake he made as a kid. Although it may be too late for her brother, it is not too late for the thousands of other brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and grandfathers who currently await deportation. How much longer do immigrants have before they are granted full protection of due process? How much longer before Keo’s family is reunited?

Caroline Vang’s family is mixed-status at the brink of being torn apart. Her father, Guy, fled Laos as a child and ended up in a refugee camp in France, where he eventually became a citizen and married Genevieve. The couple had two children in France and then moved to Dearborn, seeking to be reunited with Guy’s brothers and sisters in the United States. 10 years after Guy applied for asylum, USCIS notified Guy that his appeal is invalid. During that time, Guy & Genevieve have opened a successful restaurant in Dearborn and had two more children. Currently their case is in appeals process. What will happen to Caroline and her family? How much longer will they have together?

Many Uch arrived as a refugee in 1984, one of thousands of Cambodians who had fled civil war and survived the Khmer Rouge genocide. Uch was only 8 years old when he and his family settled in a public-housing complex in the Puget Sound area in Washington state. In 1994, Uch became an accomplice in an armed robbery and served 40 months in prison for his crime. “I came out a different person than when I went in,” says Uch, who is now a community activist and coaches a little league team for Cambodian youth.

Uch’s fate and the fate of some 1,500 other Cambodian Americans throughout the country became sealed in 1996, when the United States stiffened its immigration laws. New rules expanded the list of so-called “deportable” crimes for non-citizens, regardless of whether the person had committed that crime before 1996, or whether he had already served his sentence and had remained a law-abiding resident. Furthermore, legal appeals were also stripped.

Given the context of how Cambodians first arrived in the United States, deportation is especially harsh for the many Cambodians who grew up as Americans in every way except for citizenship. As Uch puts it, the deportation law is a “double punishment.” On the day Uch completed his criminal jail sentence, he was immediately shuttled to immigration authorities, where he spent an additional 28 months in detention because Cambodia, at that time, did not accept deportees. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled against indefinite detention, which freed Uch and many others. When a repatriation agreement was signed with Cambodia in 2002, the deportations began, tearing apart families and uprooting the lives of young men who grew up as Americans.

Contacts: Doua Thor, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Tel: 202.494.7008; Email: doua@searac.org