Tag Archives: immigration

KA Day 2 150112

California Recognizes Jan. 13 as Korean American Day

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

The California State Assembly unanimously passed a resolution to recognize Jan. 13 as Korean American Day on Monday after Assemblywoman Young Kim introduced the resolution earlier last month.

Kim’s bill, the Assembly Concurrent Resolution 3, was co-authored by 69 members of the Assembly. According to a press release, the resolution was also presented to several board members and officers of the Korean American Foundation.

“As a Korean American, I am proud of our heritage and strong values of family, faith, and hard work that have been handed to us by previous generations,” said Kim. “It is my honor to ensure that the State Assembly recognizes Korean American Day, where we can honor the past, celebrate the present, and dream of a better future for all.”

Today commemorates the 112th year of Korean immigration to the U.S. The first group of Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on Jan. 13, 1903. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, over 1.7 million Korean Americans currently reside in the U.S., with California having the highest population of Korean Americans in the nation. Korean American Day honors the sacrifices and contributions Korean Americans have made over the last century.

Last month, New York City officially declared Jan. 13 as Korean American Day after Councilman Peter Koo, who represents District 20 in Queens, proposed the designation to the city’s legislation.

Kim is the first Korean American Republican woman to be elected to the California State Assembly and the first Asian American to represent the 65th District in Sacramento, which encompasses parts of northern Orange County.

NYC Council

New York City to Vote on Korean American Day

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

New York City will vote on a resolution on Monday to designate Jan. 13 as Korean American Day, reports the Queens Chronicle. The date is intended to commemorate the anniversary of the first Korean immigrants’ arrival on U.S. soil in 1903.

“Korean Americans have made tremendous contributions to many sectors of our society,” said Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who introduced the legislation. “For example, they own and operate 192,465 businesses in the country, of which 23,948 are in New York State.”

The resolution notes that 56 men, 21 women and 25 children left Korea and sailed across the Pacific Ocean, reaching Honolulu, Hawaii on Jan. 13, 1903. The Koreans were fleeing from political oppression and poverty, hoping to find new opportunities in America.

The city council’s Committee on Cultural Affair, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations has jurisdiction over the proposed measure. There are currently over 1.4 million Korean Americans living in the United States, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. An estimated 96,741 NYC residents are of Korean descent, and two thirds of them live in Queens.

The Korea Times US reported today that the number of first-generation Koreans have just passed the one million mark, citing data from the American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau. However, that group is steadily losing ground to second-generation Korean Americans.

First-generation Koreans make up 74.9 percent of the U.S. Korean population. That’s slightly lower than 2005, when they made up 78.9 percent of Koreans in the U.S. Compared to other Asian Americans, 62.6 percent of Chinese Americans and 42.3 percent of Japanese Americans are first-generation.

Photo courtesy of Korea Times US

An anti-deportation protester in the audience shouts against Obama during event on immigration reform in San Francsico

One Year Ago, I Challenged Obama on Immigration. He’s Finally Listening

by JU HONG, Fusion

One year ago, several undocumented youth and I stood behind President Barack Obama and interrupted his speech on immigration at the Betty Ong Center in San Francisco. I challenged the president to use his executive authority to stop separating families, since bills to enact comprehensive immigration reform have repeatedly stalled in Congress. During our brief exchange, the president said he did not have the power to stop deportations. That sparked a national debate on whether the president does indeed have the authority to end the record number of deportations under his administration.

After months of public debate, President Obama finally acknowledged that he does have the power to take executive action to stop deportations.

The disruption of the president’s speech created a buzz around the country, and many people had different reactions. Some people praised my heckling for sparking a public debate. Others thought I was out of line. Some argued that I was disrespectful and rude to the president for embarrassing him publicly.

Supporters of the president argued that I should have focused my wrath on Republicans in Congress. I certainly agree we need to criticize the Republicans, especially the party leadership who are threatening the president with impeachment to stop him from taking executive action. There’s no doubt that Republicans have stalled immigration reform for years; they blocked the Dream Act and shamelessly advocate for anti-immigration policies. But in reality, it is the Obama administration, not Congress, which is to blame for implementing unjust deportation policies.

Some think I should have gone through the democratic process and contacted the president to set up an appointment with his staff to address concerns around immigration privately. But to date, the president has refused to invite an undocumented immigrant to meet with him in the White House. For years, I have conducted dozens of lobby visits, contacted elected officials, and placed hundreds of phone calls. I have participated in civil disobedience actions for immigrant rights, and have been arrested on three occasions. But unlike corporate leaders and Wall Street executives, undocumented immigrants have no access to the White House.

newJu Hong, 25, heckled Obama, urging to expand DACA on November 25, 2013. One year later, Obama may actually do it. (Photo courtesy of Ju Hong/Fusion.net)

It’s been a year since my exchange with President Obama, and he has yet to take action on immigration. Instead, the president has presided over some 1,100 deportations every day. That’s more than 2 million under his administration — the most deportations under any president in U.S. history. Obama’s enforcement programs continue to devastate immigrant communities. Now, his administration is building new detention centers to incarcerate mothers and children seeking asylum in the U.S.

Earlier this year, President Obama made a promise that he would take executive action on immigration before the end of summer. However, when Democrats complained that this could hurt their campaigns, the president postponed his action until after the midterms. Although this delay was an attempt to help Democrats in key contested races, his inaction backfired on the party. Democrats were unable to mobilize their base, especially Latino and Asian voters who provided Obama with his margin of victory in 2012.

Now he has no excuses left. President Obama needs to take bold action to stop deportations now.

First, he should expand deferred action to the fullest extent of the law, to cover as many people as possible. Through deferred action, I had the opportunity to visit South Korea to reunite with my grandmother for the first time in more than 13 years. While I’m grateful to receive these benefits, it is devastating to see how my mother and my older sister do not have the same opportunity. Expanding deferred action would provide protection from deportation, keep families and communities together, and allow immigrants to fully contribute to this society and to live and work without fear.

img_20140605_231919Ju Hong visits his grandmother. (Photo courtesy of Ju Hong/Fusion.net)

Second, the President should end all programs that entangle local police with Immigration and Custom Enforcement, including Secure Communities, 287(g) agreements, and the Criminal Alien Program. This entanglement strips police protection from immigrants. When my family was victim of a burglary in our apartment, my mother refused to call the police for fear that we would be subjected to deportation.

The clock is ticking. In response to growing frustration, more and more undocumented youth and their parents are standing up to demand that the president use his executive action on immigration.

President Obama, do the right thing. Keep your promise. Stop the deportations.


Ju Hong is an undocumented immigrant who graduated from UC Berkeley. He is currently in a master’s program at San Francisco State University.    

Originally published on Fusion.net.

Courtesy: (c) 2014 Fusion Media Network, LLC.

Ju Hong 2

Panel Highlights Korean-Latino Intersections on Immigration Reform


Ju Hong didn’t learn about his immigration status until his senior year of high school when he was applying for college. As an undocumented immigrant, Hong recalled he had no idea how to apply for financial aid and what to put down for his nonexistent Social Security number.

“I was ashamed of who I was,” Hong told students at California State University, Fullerton on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to be treated as an ‘illegal alien’ the media portrayed immigrant communities. … I felt isolated and embarrassed.”

Fortunately, Hong was able to find assistance through a Korean nonprofit. He was still able to apply for college and financial aid despite his status, and during his undergraduate years he took it upon himself to become an activist for immigration reform, which he said had a long way to go. It was his conviction that drove him to interrupt President Obama during a speech in San Francisco last year.

Hong encouraged students to be open-minded and keep learning about the issues. At the event, organized by Professor Eliza Noh of CSUF’s Asian American Studies Program, students were able to hear Hong’s testimony, as well as the perspectives of UC Irvine professor Gilbert Gonzalez and UCLA assistant professor Leisy J. Abrego. The professors gave brief histories of worker migration in Mexico and Central America, which were heavily affected by imperialistic U.S. business interests.

“I think this is a really great event,” Hong told KoreAm. “It brings different cultural community members to learn about this issue, and it challenges us to think critically about immigration system in the U.S. and internationally. It’s good to have a healthy debate on how to move forward and help undocumented immigrants.”

Immigration rights groups have been thinking more broadly and being more inclusive in recent years, according to Professor Abrego. Mainstream media has racialized the topic, leaving Asian Americans, for example, out of the discussion.

As a result, Abrego said organizations that worked with Latino immigrants were usually more up to date, more aware, and had greater access to resources — particularly when it came to accessing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Established in 2012, DACA offers temporary relief from deportation and the right to apply for work authorization for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

“We have a lot of Asian-Pacific Islander immigrants who qualify, but who aren’t applying in large numbers like it was expected,” Abrego explained. “Some of that has to do with how we portray the issue, and whether community organizations know that this is a need.”

Korean Americans are definitely among them. Hong, a research assistant at Harvard University’s National UnDACAmented Research Project, has made it a point to spread the word about the program, since many eligible undocumented Korean Americans haven’t taken advantage mainly due to lack of knowledge. Nonprofits involved in helping Korean Americans with DACA need greater support from the community, he said. He also said the Korean American community at large needs to vote and not be afraid to approach the issue.

“One last thing is to be really open-minded and learn about the issue,” Hong said, “rather than having judgmental or stereotypical perception of immigrants.”

That means cooperating and creating more spaces like this immigration panel, Abrego said. “The more we have these kinds of discussions, where we talk about the different groups, the more we recognize there’s not just one face to this. We need to understand the specificities but also the connections across the groups, especially [in] Southern California.”


SEC Charges L.A. Immigration Attorney With Investment Fraud


Justin Moongyu Lee, 57, a Los Angeles immigration lawyer, was charged Wednesday with running a fraudulent scheme to recruit Chinese and Korean immigration investors for an ethonal project that was never built.

Lee was indicted by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana on nine counts of wire fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

Justin Moongy Lee (Photo Credit: Korea Times)Justin Moongy Lee (Photo Credit: Korea Times)

According to federal prosecutors, Lee took roughly $47 million from 94 foreigners who each invested $500,000 plus fees in hopes of obtaining green cards under an immigrant investor program that allows foreigners to seek green cards if they invest in projects that create jobs.

Lee misused the investment money by transferring funds to foreign accounts he controlled and filed false paperwork with immigration authorities, said prosecutors. He was also accused of investing in a Philippines mining project with the funds he exploited.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil complaint against Lee’s wifeRebecca Taewon Leeand Thomas Edward Kent for being involved in the same alleged scheme.

“These immigration lawyers exploited a desire by foreign investors to participate in a program that would not only generate them a positive investment return, but also provide them a path to legal residence in the United States,” Michele Wien Layne, regional director of the SEC’s Los Angeles office, said in a statement. “Long after all construction had ceased, they continued to falsely tell investors that they were building the plant.”

The State Bar of California took disciplinary action against Lee, who is no longer allowed to practice law. Each of the nine wire fraud charges in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

George Newhouse, an attorney for Lee’s wife, said his client who managed Lee’s law office was not involved in any kind of fraud. Meanwhile, a message seeking comment was left for Kent’s lawyer, Jacob Shahbaz.

Lee is currently in custody in Korea, where he faces similar charges filed by Korean authorities.

Photo via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Commentary: Renewing the Promise of America For All Families

Above photo: Paul Song’s maternal grandfather, Sang Don Kim, 1961.  (Courtesy of Paul Song)

Today’s fight for immigration reform belongs to all families, whether we trace our immigration history back 10 years or 100 years ago.


As a Korean American boy growing up in New Jersey in the 1970s, I was exposed to a tremendous amount of racism. I endured painful racial taunts and name-calling and got into more than my share of fights. Although I was born in Queens, N.Y., many kids and their parents at my elementary school considered me as an outsider, someone who didn’t belong here.

The attitudes seemed to fly in the face of President Lyndon Johnson’s words: “Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more, they have poured forth, joining and blending into one might and irresistible tide. The land flourished because it was fed from so many different sources.”

Out of my personal struggles emerged an identity and set of beliefs that were no doubt shaped by my difficult early days—and even further back to my immigrant parents’ journey to these shores. Today, as the executive chairman of the Courage Campaign, a progressive online organization of over 900,000 active members, I am committed to fighting for the least among us and for equal rights for all. And that’s why, when I hear arguments these days about protecting our borders or expelling “illegal aliens” from our country, I cannot help but take them personally.


Left to right: Paul Song’s father Won Ryul Song, wife Lisa Ling, mother Grace Eun Hyung Kim and sister Ann Song,

on Paul and Lisa’s wedding day in 2007.

Like many Korean families, my story begins 60 years ago, during the war that split the peninsula in half. In 1951, my mom came to the United States via freightliner from Busan. She was a Korean War refugee from Seoul whose family had been displaced when the communists overtook their city. By the grace of God and the Herculean efforts of my mom’s older sister, who was already studying in the U.S., my mom was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to study in New York.

The tremendous draw to the United States and what it stood for was not new. Prior to the war, my aunt had always dreamed of coming to the U.S. to study, but my grandfather would only allow her to go if she learned to speak perfect English. Determined, she studied every day before school with a prominent American Presbyterian missionary, Lillias Underwood. Tragically, Mrs. Underwood was assassinated by communists in 1949. In her honor, a memorial scholarship was established for one Korean student to study in the U.S., and my aunt was the very first recipient. She was studying at Hood College in Maryland when the Korean War broke out and was asked to speak to various American churches, which wanted to know more about her homeland. It was during one of these presentations that a group offered to help my mom with a full scholarship.

Mom would eventually go on to receive a master’s degree from Columbia Teacher’s College in early childhood education, with a focus on Head Start, a federal program that provides early childhood education for low-income families. She figured that if she ever did return to Korea, that there would be tremendous poverty and a real need for a similar program.

She spent her early professional years at the Mt. Cavalry Child Care Center in New York’s Harlem, under the guidance of an amazing woman whose own American story helped define an entire generation, Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm, who would later become the first African American woman elected to Congress, mentored my mom, and later sponsored her as she sought to earn a green card. Chisholm later endorsed my mom to become the education director for the entire Newark, N.J., Head Start program.

In 1958, my mom met my father, a native of Pyongyang, whose family lost everything when they fled to the South before the start of the Korean War. He served in the South Korean Navy during the war and, after graduating from Yonsei University, would come to the U.S. to complete his Ph.D. in chemistry. They would marry in 1959.

Their original intent was to go back and help rebuild their homeland; however, just as they were beginning to build a life together in the U.S., the struggles of the past were never too far away.

In 1960, my late maternal grandfather, Sang Don Kim, would become the first democratically elected mayor of Seoul. Unfortunately, he was swept up in the military coup of 1961 led by Park Chung-hee and thrown in jail. Despite numerous attempts by the military, he was found not guilty and released five months later, but placed under house arrest and barred from future politics. He would eventually be exiled to the U.S. and never allowed to return. My family did not set foot again in Korea until 1992, when democracy was fully restored.

Through all of this, my parents, and eventually my younger sister and I, called the United States home. They were forever grateful to their adopted country, and they strived to build a life worthy of pride and to give something back. Such is a sentiment shared by so many immigrants who came before them.

But the immigrant story is not one just of the past, reserved only for the history books. It is a continuing story that is still very much part of the fabric and character of America. And, during this hyper-partisan time of divisive rhetoric, when the so-called costs of immigration are often highlighted, it is important to point out the indisputable facts about how immigrants strengthen this nation. In 2011, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses while accounting for only 13 percent of the population.

Economically, immigrants represent more than $1 trillion in annual consumer spending and could add as much as 1.3 percent to the GDP by 2016. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that immigration reform would reduce the deficit by $135 billion over the next 10 years.

But, even if there was no economic benefit to immigration reform, the moral argument is simply too strong to ignore. Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Yet, millions of families today remain separated by thousands of miles, and often oceans, between them. Many of our undocumented workers, especially women, are abused, have their rights and dignity violated on a daily basis, and some are even trafficked because they have little recourse against their employers. Young people, who came here as children, live in the shadows through no fault of their own.

Many of us Korean Americans can trace our family’s history of immigrant struggle to a few decades earlier, and since then we’ve managed to make this great nation our home. But even as we work to build successful lives for ourselves, and for our loved ones, let us not forget our fellow Korean and non-Korean brothers and sisters who continue to live in the shadows and are still fighting to realize their American Dream. Like our parents once did, they too are only asking for a chance to build a better life, so that they can one day give back.

Michelle Obama recently said, “As citizens, we do not shut the doors of opportunity behind us. We preserve the promise of America. We renew it. We extend it, so that future generations of Americans—Americans by birth and ‘Americans-by-choice’—can do their part to form the more perfect union that our founders imagined so many years ago.”

I believe that our strength as a country is a direct result of the diversity within our borders. That’s why, whether our families came here recently or 100 years ago, immigration reform should be our fight, too. I respectfully urge everyone to learn more about how to can get involved and show your support in the fight for real immigration reform by visiting fwd.us.

Paul Y. Song is an oncologist, health care activist and biotech executive based in Los Angeles. To learn more about the Courage Campaign he leads, visit www.couragecampaign.org.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously wrote the organization FWD.us’s website address as fwd.us.com. The correct address is fwd.us. KoreAm regrets the error. 

This article was published in the July 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


An anti-deportation protester in the audience shouts against Obama during event on immigration reform in San Francsico

DACA Program for Undocumented Youth Renewed


(Above photo: Ju Hong, a DACA recipient and immigration reform activist, famously interrupts President Obama’s speech last November. Photo via PRI.)

The U.S. Homeland Security recently announced the renewal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was set to expire in September.

The program allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to legally reside and work for two years. More than 560,000 individuals have received DACA as of April 2014, and according to data released by USCIS, 7,504 of the applicants are from South Korea.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it would begin accepting renewal requests immediately as well as requests from new eligible applicants. The agency urged renewal applicants to file their requests before their current program expires to avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization.

“Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement. “By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great Nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead.”

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus (CAPAC) applauded the news. “This important program has allowed over half a million undocumented youth to come out of the shadows and continue contributing to our society,” Congresswoman Judy Chu, also CAPAC’s chair, said in a statement.

Chu echoed Johnson’s call for a more permanent fix for undocumented youth: comprehensive immigration reform, which would allow them a path to citizenship. She also noted that she was concerned about the low number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have applied for DACA. “Although approximately 8 percent of undocumented youth who are eligible for DACA are from Asia, only 2.6 percent of DACA applicants are AAPI,” her statement said. “That is why I encourage the USCIS to increase engagement efforts with our community, and ensure undocumented AAPI youth receive the relief they need.”

For more information about the renewal process and eligibility requirements, visit here. Information about national and local DACA information sessions are available here.

Below are the details for DACA applicants, according to Social Justice Solutions:

Applicants for renewal can begin by filing the new version of Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. There is a filing and biometrics (fingerprints and photo) fee associated with Form I-765 totaling $465. As with an initial request, USCIS will conduct a background check when processing DACA renewals.

USCIS will also host both national and local DACA informational sessions. USCIS will provide further information on these sessions during which USCIS officials will provide additional information on the DACA process and be available to answer your questions. For information on local DACA engagements, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.

To learn more about the renewal process or requesting initial consideration of DACA, visit www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.


Asian Americans Shifted Most Strongly Toward Democrats Since 2000


Above photo: President Obama meets with Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) in May 2013 to discuss immigration reform.

Asian Americans have shifted most strongly toward the Democratic Party out of all racial or ethnic groups since 2000, according to a new report from Gallup released last Friday. Part of the reason may come from many Asian Americans affinity to President Obama, a fellow minority, but Gallup also attributes the shift to Asian Americans’ opposition to core tenets of the Republican Party.

The numbers from the past two presidential elections are a clear indicator of the shift. In 2008, 62 percent of Asian American voters backed Obama, and in 2012, 73 percent backed him for reelection, according to Edison Research exit poll data.

The two major issues the report identified as reasons for this political leaning: religion and immigration. A majority of Asians in the United States are non-Christian or not particularly religious, while the GOP has a core constituency of evangelical Christians.

The Republican Party’s resistance to changing immigration laws also may not sit well with the fastest growing immigrant group. Asians make up only 5 percent of the country’s population, but they recently surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the U.S.

Despite the growing numbers, polls that allow for deeper analysis of Asian American views are hard to come by because of the still relatively small population and language barriers. Gallup’s report included about 4,000 Asian Americans, and it did not conduct surveys in Asian languages—a fact that the research group acknowledged as a drawback to its data. Other research centers that do conduct surveys in Asian languages, however, have produced very similar results. A 2012 Pew Research Center report, which conducted its survey in seven Asian languages, found that 50 percent of Asian Americans identified with the Democratic Party, compared with 28 percent who identified with the Republican Party.

Photo via National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)