Hello, my name is Dae Joong (DJ) Yoon. I am an immigrant, a father of two young children, and I work with immigrant families.
As an immigrant who came to this country as a young man, I know first-hand how hard immigrants work for their family and country. And, I personally witnessed what it means for an immigrant family being separated from loved ones. I am fasting to stop the separation of families.
My mother is from North Korea and when she was 12 years old, she walked for days to South Korea with her mother and siblings. She didn’t know that it would be the last time she saw her father again. Sixty years since the Korean War, my mother does not know if he is still alive or not.
Why I am joining the fast?In 1978, when my mother’s siblings went to America, she yearned to be reunited with them. They were the only family she had. My uncle filed a petition and we waited 10 years to before we could come to America. In choosing to come to America however, we had to make sacrifices. At 22 years of age, my older brother was too old to immigrate with the family. It took another 4 years for my older brother to join us in America and until then, each family gathering such as birthdays or Thanksgiving were marked by his absence. My mother led each prayer by blessing all family members and when she got to her oldest son’s name, there was always a pause and sounds of her crying.
When my brother joined us in America, it was the happiest time for my family. Like every other immigrant family, my mother worked hard to provide for her family and pay for our education. She worked in factories and with her savings and a loan from her brother; she opened a laundromat in Chicago. She worked seven days a week and her only time off was to attend Sunday church services. She was able to employ two part time workers and eventually buy a home. I am proud to say that my mother’s hard work boosted the local economy by paying taxes, creating jobs, and reviving the neighborhood.
In working with immigrant families, I have seen the devastating impact of deportations.
Imagine yourself. You came to the U.S. for a better life. You tried hard to get a green card. You hired an immigration lawyer but he filed your papers incorrectly and you are now undocumented. Meanwhile, your wife gives birth to a son. To support the family, you work in a restaurant for 15 years while your spouse raises your son and volunteers at the school library. Suddenly, one night, ICE agents come to your home and take your wife away. Your son witnesses all this. After months in a detention center, you and your wife realize that there is no way out but to go back to Korea. But your son doesn’t speak Korean and he is a teenager. You decide to leave your son in America with a guardian. This happened to Mr. and Ms. Jung in Toledo, Ohio. We could not stop this separation and I will never forget their sad eyes and broken heart worrying about and missing their son when I met Mr. and Mrs. Jung in Korea. They cried as they asked: “how on earth could this happen to a family and how this would happen in America?”
With today’s immigration system, 1,100 families like Mr. and Mrs. Jung are being deported and separated from their loved ones each day.
When millions of our neighbors live in fear of being separated from their loved ones, this is not America of our dreams.
When millions of Americans are waiting decades to be reunited with their loved ones, this is not America of our dreams.
Since DACA was announced last June, I and my colleagues met thousands of undocumented Dreamers and assist them to receive deferred deportation and a temporary work permit. Many Dreamers came to our centers to show their newly acquired Drivers License and work permits and they talked about their dreams to become teacher, social workers, lawyers, and community organizers. And their hard working parents hope that someday soon, they will not have to live in fear of being deported. America would have a great and brighter future if there we could include all Dreamers and their hard working parents.
I believe that my fellow American sisters and brothers support immigrant families. It is an American value that families should stay together, that hard working aspiring immigrants should have the opportunity to become citizens, and young people should have the chance to attend college and contribute to their community.
I am joining this fast because we can’t wait any longer. Congress can restore public confidence that they can lead America in the right direction by taking action today. Congress can right the wrongs of today’s immigration system and the time is now.