2.19.2020

Letter To My Father

Guest Post by Rachel Pak



The Tahirih Justice Center is a national, nonprofit organization that serves immigrant women and girls seeking safety and justice. We amplify the voices of survivors in communities, courts, and Congress to create a world where women and girls enjoy equality and live in safety and with dignity.

Dear Dad,

I know this country was not always kind to you when you immigrated. Your parents brought you to America in the 1970s, seeking a better life from a developing South Korea. You entered a country that in the past has chosen to exclude Asian immigrants during moments of national panic, and then include at economically opportune times—from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to the incarceration of close to 120,000 Japanese descendants during World War II.

With legislation passed in 1965 and a need for skilled laborers, migration from Asia reopened, allowing you and my grandparents to move to the U.S. In a country that did not fully welcome you, with policies that historically excluded you, you worked hard to provide my sister and me a better future in America. I am immensely grateful for your sacrifices -- however, I want us to pay attention to the current state of immigration policy in the U.S.

The racism in our laws hasn't gone away. It continues -- it is vicious and is targeting migrants arriving at our southern border. Even more tragic, our government’s policies are stripping away the right to simply seek safety from people who are fleeing for their lives. I saw this first-hand when I was at the border between El Paso and Ciudad Ju├írez last December.


Our government has returned more than 59,000 asylum seekers to Mexico to wait out the remainder of their cases under a policy dubbed "Remain in Mexico." They came to our borders seeking refuge. Instead of being given a shot to show their need for protection, our government is sending them into danger.

On one of the days I helped at an asylum clinic, I was in a cold factory-turned-shelter, with recently returned families and kids huddled around to listen to a presentation about their legal rights. There was no functioning heat and the power went out several times. Families told me that they were assaulted outside the shelters—some even kidnapped— so now they hardly ever leave.

People waited all day to receive legal advice from my team. A process that usually takes several months was shortened into thirty minutes or less, because access to legal counsel is scarce here. While forced to wait in Mexico, there's little chance of finding an attorney to navigate the frantically changing asylum system.

In this crowded shelter, single moms fleeing domestic abuse, individuals escaping gendered persecution, and families who left targeted violence from gangs recounted their stories to me. So many of these people deserve asylum, but there are so many new barriers to secure it. They shouldn't be waiting in Mexico when it is their legal right to seek asylum in the U.S.

Outside the shelters, asylum seekers from Mexico are on standby in front of the bridge to cross into El Paso. They’ve fled violence and are afraid for their lives, but they're stuck on a waiting list to even be allowed to apply for asylum because of a policy called "metering." Under this policy, only a few families can present their case for asylum each week. The rest are waiting for months outside, sleeping in torn down tarps, holding their place in line.

The right to seek asylum is embedded in international treaties. Under our own federal laws, we must offer individuals who fear persecution or violence in their home countries the chance to apply for asylum. We cannot turn away people, but that is what our government is doing.

Our government has banned almost everyone approaching the southern border from applying for asylum. And the government has even begun to send asylum seekers to Guatemala to request asylum there, rather than extend an arm of refuge. This level of attacks on our asylum system is unprecedented.

As someone who shares in our nation’s immigrant fabric, who has been shaped by, and benefited from, our immigration policy, I cannot stand by while the legal right to seek safety is torn away. That's why I'm asking you too, appa, to take a closer look at what's happening in our country. The racism in our immigration laws continues and the impact is fatal. It's tearing families apart and putting people in danger.

Your parents moved here envisioning a better future for you, and you dreamed of a better future for my sister and me. As a proud daughter of immigrants, I'm dreaming of a better future for our country -- one where everyone can seek and live a life free from violence.

Love,

Rachel


Rachel Pak is a Policy Communications Associate at the Tahirih Justice Center.


angry archive