President Obama recently expressed his best wishes to all Americans celebrating Lunar New Year this year.
In the video message, Obama recalled growing up in Hawaii and seeing the Lunar New Year celebrations, including “parades, fireworks and gatherings.” He praised the holiday as the perfect reminder of the many unique traditions, perspectives and cultural backgrounds that make America a “melting pot.”
He also stressed the importance of immigration reform, stating that Americans should work together to pass an immigration bill that can “expand opportunities for more people to study, and serve, and contribute to our nation.”
You can watch Obama’s 2015 Lunar New Year greeting below:
This year marks the Year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat. You can learn more about this zodiac animal’s characteristics in our previous Lunar New Year post.
In 2014, NAKASEC and our affiliates, KRC in Los Angeles and Orange County and KRCC in Chicago, provided vital services to tens of thousands, trained and developed new leaders, organized our community to fix today’s broken immigration system as well as speak out against police brutality and other injustices, and turned out our community to vote. As we look back on our work last year, we would like to thank our incredible supporters, volunteers, partners, and community members who make the work we do possible.
A key achievement is supporting our community to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since 2012, nearly 8,000 undocumented Korean Americans have successfully applied and receive temporary relief from deportation and work authorization. South Korea is currently among one of the top five countries with the highest DACA application rates. NAKASEC, KRC, and KRCC have been integral to making sure that Korean Americans are informed and participate in the program. Over the past two years, our three organizations successfully processed more than 1,300 applications and provided one-on-one, email, and phone consultations to nearly 10,000 undocumented community members.
Among those we assisted is Sanghyun,* a 19-year-old Korean American college freshman in Los Angeles, California. After his father passed away, Sanghyun was raised by a single mother who works as a homecare worker. When DACA was announced in 2012, he was unable to apply due to the high application fee and his family’s financial situation. But with financial support and application assistance from KRC, Sanghyun became a DACA recipient this past June. He is now able to pay his way through school and support his family. Stories like Sanghyun’s are not uncommon in our community. And they continue to remind us why we must ensure that every eligible community member benefits from DACA.
On November 20, President Obama announced his executive actions on immigration — an expansion of DACA and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), a new program offering undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and Lawful Permanent Resident children relief from deportation and work authorization. In addition to the 30,000 undocumented Korean Americans currently eligible for DACA, just over 48,000 Korean Americans are estimated to be newly eligible for relief.
With many more community members now eligible for relief, NAKASEC hopes to serve as many community members as possible by getting the word out, creating culturally competent materials, responding to inquiries, and providing legal services as soon as applications are made available.
But we need your support to make this possible. We ask you to make a difference by donating to NAKASEC today. It costs at least $250 for us to completely process one application. By donating $10, $25, $50, $100, or more at bit.ly/donate94, your support will have a direct impact on the lives of our community members. And for the next few months, your contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar! Thank you for a memorable year and for inspiring us every day to work towards winning true reform and justice in our communities.
*Name has been changed to protect his privacy.
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, INC. (NAKASEC)
NAKASEC seeks to empower the Korean American community through education and advocacy. NAKASEC was founded in 1994 by five Korean American community organizations located across the U.S. Its program areas include education, civil rights and immigrant rights advocacy, civic participation, research, leadership, coalition-building and culture. NAKASEC programs focus on serving those with less resources and access, such as women, youth, seniors, low-income residents and recent immigrants.
Miyoung Lee, second from left, originally from Korea, holds her son Nate, 3, during a naturalization ceremony in the New York Public Library in New York, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (Photo courtesy of AP/Seth Wenig)
by AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Asians have been slower to sign up for President Barack Obama’s reprieve for young immigrants in the country illegally, and community advocates are ramping up efforts to reach thousands more who are eligible for his expanded immigration plan.
Many advocates have blamed the paltry turnout among young Asian immigrants for the administration’s 2012 program on the stigma of being in the country illegally in their communities, where many feel lacking proper immigration papers is culturally shunned.
Now, advocates worry Obama’s new program for the parents of American citizens and legal residents will be an even tougher sell as older generations of Asian immigrants are already working and supporting their families and may be even more reluctant to reveal their immigration status to friends and neighbors, let alone the federal government.
“There is this model minority myth that Asians are supposed to be successful immigrants,” said Anoop Prasad, senior staff attorney at Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. “What does it say about you if you say: ‘Actually, I am having a lot of problems. I am not making it like everyone else in America thinks we should be?'”
Roughly 5 million immigrants are expected to qualify for Obama’s plans to give work permits and temporary protection from deportation to the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents and many immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. While most applicants are expected to be Hispanic, nearly half a million of those who qualify are Asian, according to the Washington-based Pew Research Center.
But Asian immigrants have been less apt to apply for the government’s 2012 immigration program than their Latin American counterparts. As of last year, more than 60 percent of eligible Mexicans and Hondurans had signed up for the program, but only about a quarter of eligible Koreans and Filipinos had done so, according to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.
Knowing the challenges, Asian community advocates have ramped up efforts to reach immigrants and to do so in a private, more personal way.
On a Chinese-language flier for a recent workshop, advocates stressed one-on-one consultations would be offered in a bid to draw immigrants who may not want to disclose their immigration status in a room full of strangers.
Translation is being offered in a spate of languages to cater to elders who probably speak less English than their American-raised children. And instead of using the Internet to reach applicants, community organizations are turning to ethnic newspapers.
“Asian youth tend to go more toward social media and Facebook. We’re actually trying to see if we can get more ads in the paper,” said Tiffany Panlilio, a legal advocate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles.
But even with these efforts, some experts question whether more Asians will come forward and apply.
Tom Wong, a professor of political science at University of California, San Diego, said Asian immigrants may not fear as acutely the threat of deportation since the most of the people who are deported are Hispanic.
“It may be the case the incentive structure does not favor Asian undocumented immigrants when it comes to applying for these temporary programs,” he said.
Wong also said older immigrants who already have jobs may be less likely to seek temporary work authorization, especially if they are already working under a false name or Social Security number, fearing they could get in trouble with their employer.
Young Asians who applied for Obama’s 2012 reprieve said they were well aware of the generational divide.
Do Hee Lee, a 21-year-old college student in Maryland, said her Korean parents were nervous about her signing up for the program, but the alternative was worse: going to college in Korea and being separated from her family for years.
Seth Ronquillo, a 22-year-old community health advocate in California, said he felt he had nothing to lose when he applied since he had virtually no hope of putting his college degree to use upon graduation because of his immigration status.
His mother, however, was another story. Ronquillo said she sometimes still questions whether he could be at greater risk for deportation since outing himself to the government, especially if Obama’s successor takes a tougher stance on illegal immigration.
“I can only imagine other immigrant parents have the same mentality,” Ronquillo said.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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.
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.
TheKorea 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.
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.
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.
Ju 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.
Ju 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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.