Posted by: Christopher Punongbayan
Below is testimony given by Ju Hong, a 19 year old student at Laney College in Oakland, in a recent legislative visit to the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Ju is the school’s first Asian American student body president. His activism is part of a national Asian American and Pacific Islander Week of Action urging Congress and the President to pass a fair and humane immigration reform bill that upholds the rights of all Americans.
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Thank you for this opportunity to testify in support of Development Relief for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act).
Approximately 2.8 million students will graduate from high school this year. Some of them will go on to college, join the military, or take another path in life, eventually becoming active members of society, all equally American. However, in this sea of individuals, a group of approximately 65,000 students will not have this opportunity, not because they lack motivation, but because of the status passed on to them by their parents.
My name is Ju Hong and I am 19 years old. I was born in South Korea, and brought to the United States when I was twelve years old. I came to this country with my mother and my older sister. After we came to this country, my mother continuously worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, sacrificing her time to support my education and provide food on the table each day. She leaves for work early in the morning, and comes home late at night. Frequently, she looks exhausted and overwhelmed, but she tries to hide the pain from me. Because of her willingness to sacrifice for my future, I decided to work hard in school and get a job to support my family. It was difficult to manage the time to study and work, but I thought the hard work paid off, when I received an acceptance letter from UC Davis. However, I had to give up on a wonderful school because of financial difficulties. Worst of all, the realization of my status discouraged me to pursue my education. I was an undocumented
Unlike many other students, I was unable to get a legal job, obtain a driver’s license, or receive financial aid. I had no equal access to educational opportunities. Not only that, I faced fear of deportation. Sometimes I wake up in horror, with nightmares of Immigration Customs and Enforcement banging on my door to arrest my family and me. With continued lack of sleep, I was psychologically and emotionally damaged. I was depressed and I was scared. I was scared of losing my dream. I was scared of losing my beloved family. Not only did I feel I was tossing away my talent, but also I had to deal with being separated from my family in South Korea. Each day, I suffered great pain and faced difficult challenges, but I have never given up my hopes of achieving an education.
With strong determination, I focused on school while actively participating in different areas of activities. I finished first year of college with 3.8 GPA average, and dedicated my time to serve thousands of hours in the community, tutoring other students in math and history, organizing activities and events at school, and helping recent immigrant families. Later, I became the first Asian American student body president at Laney College and devoted my time to make our college a better environment. I worked hard, challenged myself, and pushed beyond my limitations to show that anyone could achieve their dream regardless of status. I share the love others have for this country, hoping that one day; I will receive the chance to become an equal part of society.
I’m writing on behalf of talented young students who are seeking nothing more than to be recognized for what they are: Americans. These talented young students graduate from high school with outstanding grades, hoping to attend the best university they can to achieve a higher education. But these students have no choice but to toss away their talent and their dream, for a “crime” they did not choose to commit. The only “crime” that these students make in this country is that they dream of higher education. Consequently, many of these students have the power to positively influence America’s future, if only they could be given a chance. In fact, this chance is in your hands, dear Nancy Pelosi. Please let us dream and give us a chance to be active in the community. I want to aim high, work hard, and continue to strive for my goals and reach my dream. I believe that our nation should take advantage of their expertise, and that is why I urge you to support the DREAM ACT and Comprehensive Immigration Reform and make our American Dream a reality.
You can also find Ju speaking at a rally in Oakland here.