By Naeisha Rose
Shortly after President Trump terminated the DACA program March 5, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent out a press release featuring video testimonials of the human faces of the Obama-era initiative, which included former Woodside resident Angie Kim.
Schneiderman as well as 17 attorneys general across the country are suing Trump to protect people like Kim, who are in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program from deportation. The so-called Dreamers were brought to the United States illegally as children.
“Immigrants are the backbone of this country,” said Kim in her testimonial. “We are Americans.”
Kim came to the United States in 1993 from South Korea when she was 9 years old because her father wanted to take care of her grandfather, a naturalized citizen who was paraplegic.
“My parents tried [to help us become citizens] before we even landed at JFK,” Kim said. “They went to a few unscrupulous lawyers, which is a very common story for immigrants.”
In Queens she met people from various backgrounds and although it took a while, her family eventually learned to speak English and later embraced the different cultures in her new community.
“Queens has a very vibrant and diverse immigrant community,” said Kim. “There was an adjustment period, but I was a happy child.”
By the time her family had a real application for them to become a citizen she was in her teens and her grandmother, who sponsored her family died in 2002, a year after they started the initial application process.
The death of Kim’s grandmother meant she was placed in a permanent backlog, which left her in limbo in terms of her status.
“It might take a certain amount of research and knowledge for the masses to understand, but the immigration system is broken,” said Kim. “The law is so outdated it doesn’t do justice to the migration flow we had in the last 20 to 30 years.”
Afterwards her parents divorced and her dad was remarried to a citizen, but when he filed for Kim and her younger brother in 2004, only her sibling was allowed to later become a citizen.
For a child to be sponsored by their parent they have to be under 21, according to Kim.
“It was just 10 days after my father started the application that I had turned 21,” Kim said. “He did not know there was an age cap for a secondary beneficiary.”
After her brother became a citizen he was able to sponsor their mother, but Kim remained an undocumented immigrant and went on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals five years ago.
Kim would later become a community engagement advocacy coordinator at the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium and has been fighting for immigrant rights ever since.
Although she knows the attorney general’s lawsuit is not a permanent solution, Kim is thankful that leaders like Schneiderman are fighting for her.
“It was just nice to have the support,” Kim said. “This is not an isolated issue. You are going to have less doctors, teachers, people serving you at restaurants and first responders. These are people you live and breathe with. What is happening is inhumane.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose