Sang Hyug Jung: As I join the Fasting

Tuesday, Nov. 12, was the launch of “Fast4Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship.” Below is a story of one faster and why he is fasting. To learn more about Fast4Famlies and how to get involved visit their website http://fast4families.org/

Mr. Sang Hyug Jung on the far left with other fasters.
Mr. Sang Hyug Jung on the far left with other fasters.

By Sang Hyug Jung

One day in February 2004, I came to the U.S with my family and I was full of hope for a better future. I felt nervous in my new journey, but still confident that everything would be fine. I had visited the U.S a year earlier to prepare my immigration papers and met with several experts to plan ahead. They told me that everything would be fine and on schedule as long as I paid the immigration fees. I was naïve enough to believe the advice and in part I did that because I thought that the U.S. as the most powerful nation in the world would have a well functioning and reliable immigration system.  Therefore, I thought that I just needed to wait until my application was approved; in my mind, it was just a matter of time.

For the time being, everything seemed to going well or so I believed. The consultants always told me not to worry, reminding me that they had gone through the process to become U.S citizens. Time flied, and two years had passed since I had begun my petition. When the third year came without any notice from USCIS, I began to worry about our application and began to have doubts about the advice of the immigrant consultants. I asked around to figure out what had gone wrong and learned that my case had gone nowhere. I was devastated.

Feeling a mixture of despair and anger, I asked for a refund for the fees since my petition had been denied. But the consultant insisted that my case was still pending so that he couldn’t return the money. He even threatened me that he would report to the police about my status if I kept requesting a refund. I had no choice but give up on the money. The reality of my situation knocked me down hard, but I had to figure out a way to stay here.

After difficult searches, I found a company which could file a petition for me and started working for the company. I felt relieved. I worked for the company for two years. Everything seemed well and my lawyer told me to put my worries away.

Later, I got a work permit, which made me think that everything was on track. One day, my lawyer asked me to bring all tax-related documents to submit to USCIS and I did. However, my lawyer soon informed me that my company was not eligible to sponsor my petition. It didn’t have enough income to hire me. Again, I lost my petition and my hopes were shattered. I felt like I was thrown into a turbulent sea: and there was no way to get out alive. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and my health began to deteriorate.

Since then, I fell into depression and was unable to do anything. I stayed at home feeling miserable. Many times, I thought about going back to Korea, but it had been already five years since I came to the U.S. and my children had become settled. My older son was about to graduate from high school and younger one was going to enter junior high school. Fortunately, both my children did well in school.  I did not have enough money to send my son to college and he needed to find a school that could provide a full scholarship. He was admitted to several schools, but none could provide a full scholarship; he would have to give up his plans to go to college.

All my dreams had turned into despair and remorse and I had hit rock bottom. There was no hope left, just despair. Then I ran into the Korean Resource Center and heard about AB 540 and in-state tuition. I jumped for joy, but that feeling didn’t last long because even the cost of in-state tuition was too much for me. Fortunately, community members had heard about our situation gave us some donations and I scrambled together all the money I had. That was how I was able to send my son to a college. Thankfully, he did well in school and that was the light that shone in the darkness that helped me endure the hard times.

Last year President Obama announced DACA and both my children were approved. My older son just graduated from college and was admitted to a graduate program to receive his doctorate. My younger daughter just entered college. I wanted my children to go to college not to become rich with degrees but because it would open a path to their dreams. And I hoped that they would never been denied an opportunity because of their legal status.

My immigration story is not over yet. And I know there are many families like mine. In truth, I used to feel embarrassed to tell my story because I blamed myself for putting my children through such a difficult ordeal. I felt that I had failed as a father.

But I don’t feel that way anymore. I don’t want to be ashamed of who I am. I want to tell you tell others that we should not be discouraged and continue to hope. I know how difficult it is to live as an undocumented immigrant. Yet, I and my family still have hope. I believe we can pass comprehensive immigration reform together.

Let’s not hide any more in the shadows. We’re undocumented, but we are also human beings.  Let’s fight together to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

I also have a message to the Members of Congress. We, the undocumented are not different from you. We are just like your friends and families. We also work hard and pay taxes to make this nation better. We’ve been a part of this great nation. If you continue to deny our rights as human beings, if you use us for your political advantage, if you continue to break our families, you will find yourself isolated and you will be held responsible when immigrant families stride to polling places.

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Support Workers at Potomac Disposal

The crew contracted to pick up trash in Montgomery County has been in contract negotiations for the last several months. Earlier this month, they received the company’s last, best offer, but it wasn’t remarkably different than the initial offer and didn’t include the affordable health insurance and fair wages that were top priority for the workers.

Read one of the worker’s stories and show your support here.

PDstrike_jacobMy name is Jacob Alvial, and I’m a garbage truck driver currently on strike at Potomac Disposal. Collecting trash is dangerous and demanding work, and my co-workers and I want the resources we need to take care of ourselves and our families.

We’ve gotten a lot of support and encouragement from the Montgomery County Council, our Maryland State Delegates, and residents like you. However, Potomac Disposal and Unity Disposal still won’t meet us halfway to sign contracts that include affordable health insurance and fair wages.

Potomac Disposal even said they don’t have to compromise with us because they aren’t feeling any pressure from our strike.

So now, we need to show them that YOU, their customers, do care how they treat their workers.

These companies work for you, and are required to staff customer service lines. Please call them and tell them that their employees deserve affordable health insurance and fair wages.

Potomac Disposal: 301-294-9700

Unity Disposal and Recycling: 301-490-8604 or 301-990-2049

Then, sign the petition at http://bit.ly/1fSLuDL to let us know you called.

We can’t trust these companies to count your calls accurately. Signing on will make sure we can tell Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett exactly how many residents support us.

Join us as we support our brothers and sisters at UFCW

Screen shot 2013-10-23 at 1.12.09 PM

Tell Giant and Safeway to reward the workforce that has made them both, two of the most profitable retail grocery chains in the entire world!

Local 400 along with UFCW, Local 27 are currently negotiating with the major employers of the retail grocery industry throughout the Metropolitan Washington and Baltimore, Maryland areas. These contracts expire on October 31 , 2013. 
 
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 400 is requesting that you contact Giant Food and Safeway in support of our working families.

Here is what you can do:

Join them to leaflet:

  • Sunday, 10/27 from 4:00-5:30pm at the Columbia Heights Giant (1345 Park Rd NW)
  • Tuesday, 10/29 from 6:00-7:30pm at the Georgetown Safeway (1855 Wisconsin Ave NW)

Send the letter Dear_Giant_and_Safeway supporting Giant and Safeway employees to:

Mr. Dean Wilkinson
Executive Vice President
Sales & Operations
Giant Food, LLC
8301 Professional Place, Suite 115
Landover, MD 20785

Mr. Steve Neibergall
Eastern Division President
Safeway, Inc. Eastern Division
4551 Forbes Blvd
Lanham, MD 20706

DC City Council Hearing on Living Wages for Tipped Workers

October 28 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Paid Sick Days and The Living Wage for Tipped Workers Campaign is heading into the final days before the hearing on Oct. 28th. We got to this point because of your commitment and we are going to need you to continue to be involved, to ensure all workers have Paid Sick Days and an opportunity to earn a living wage!

proto: Woong Chang
proto: Woong Chang

If you’d like to testify at the hearing, please sign up HERE. To keep track of individuals who are testifying or would like to be present, please email jeremiah@rocunited.org if you plan on testifying or attending the hearing.

FACT: The minimum wage for tipped workers in Washington, DC is currently just $2.77 an hour

FACT: The tipped minimum wage has not been increased in over 20 years

FACT: DC Restaurant workers are unhealthy and unable to purchase affordable health insurance

FACT: Many DC restaurant employers ignore the law. 

FACT: The Restaurant industry is a segregated by gender and race. 

Get more of the facts from the  ROC-DC fact sheet.

– See more at: http://rocunited.org/event/city-council-hearing-on-living-wages-for-tipped-workers/#sthash.Zj6RqVRJ.dpuf

Over 30 Leaders Arrested in a Major Civil Disobedience Action in DC for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

(photos courtesy of http://americasvoiceonline.org)

House Republicans continue to stall progress on immigration reform and a path to citizenship while our families continue to be ripped apart. Yesterday, over 30 leaders, including prominent leaders from the labor movement, tired of being ignored, were arrested in a major civil disobedience action in DC for comprehensive reform that creates a road map to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

Our unjust immigration policies are leaving children without their parents, wives without their husbands and brothers and sisters without each other. Every day, roughly 1,000 people are deported because the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives is denying the majority of the U.S. Congress a chance to vote on citizenship. 

Speaker Boehner has shown he won’t bring citizenship to a vote unless we force his hand. And some anti-immigrant lawmakers in Speaker Boehner’s party—led by the likes of Rep. Steve King—want to make sure lawmakers create a permanent second class in our country, by not allowing aspiring Americans to become citizens at all. But without a road map to citizenship, our immigration system will not live up to our ideals as Americans.

America is a nation of values, founded on an idea—that all men and women are created equal. This country is a land of freedom and opportunity. 11 million hardworking people deserve the opportunity to participate fully in our democracy. And 435 members of the House of Representatives deserve the opportunity to vote on that road map to citizenship. The time is now to end the moral crisis of deportations in our country, to stop corporations from exploiting vulnerable workers and to work together for solutions. 

How to take action NOW:

1. Sign and forward the petition asking House Speaker John Boehner to bring citizenship to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. 

2.  Call Congress at 888-787-9658 right now and tell them to stop tearing families apart. 

3.  Tweet your support. #immigrationreform; #TimeisNow. Here’s an example:

Retweet if you want #immigrationreform. CALL if you want it now: 888-704-9466. #TimeisNow for the House to act!

4. Stay tuned for more opportunities to take action with APALA-DC!

APALA Statement on the Confirmation of Thomas E. Perez

APALA Statement on the Confirmation of Thomas E. Perez
The Right Leader for Secretary of Labor
July 18, 2013- The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA) commends the Senate and Majority Leader Harry Reid on the confirmation of the next Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez. The 54-46 vote clears the pathway for a historic moment of the first-ever Dominican American cabinet-level appointee and progress for all working families.

 

“Under Perez’s leadership, the Department of Labor will continue to protect the welfare of American wage earners, immigrant workers and retirees,” said Johanna Puno Hester, APALA National President. “His personal experience as a child of immigrant parents and his victories on worker’s rights reflect a real understanding and commitment to social justice. We look forward to working closely with him on issues affecting Asian Pacific Americans and communities at-large”.

Perez previously served as the Assistant Attorney Generation for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Maryland Department of Labor. His extensive track record includes broadening court access for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals and tackling language barriers within the Department of Justice through compliance with Executive Order 13166.

“Long-term unemployment remains high among Asian Pacific Americans and we continue to see cases of labor trafficking and abuse of workers from the Philippines, India and Latin American countries,” said Gregory Cendana, APALA Executive Director. “We are extremely confident that the needs and rights of all workers – regardless of their status – will be addressed with our new Secretary of Labor. Today’s vote is a huge step forward; however, the delayed confirmation has been disappointing and costly for our country. We urge the Senate to move decisively on upcoming confirmations of the President’s nominees including the National Labor Relations Board.”

 

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The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO was founded in 1992 as the first and only national organization for Asian Pacific American union members to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. For more information, visit www.apalanet.org and follow@APALAnational

Statement from APALA National President Johanna Puno Hester

Contact: Diana Bui
 

Statement from APALA National President Johanna Puno Hester

Mixed Supreme Court decisions must strengthen our resolve  

to further civil rights for all

June 28, 2013 – This week has truly sparked a nationwide debate on equality and civil rights. From marriage equality to voter protection to affirmative action, we as a country must unite through our values to ensure civil rights for all community members. The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, the first and only national organization for Asian Pacific American workers and allies, is deeply impacted by the Supreme Court rulings which leave us at a crossroad in our movement going forward.

I am encouraged by the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and rule out the appeal of the overturned Prop 8 ruling in 2009. This is a huge step forward for the LGBT community in gaining equal protection under the law. The 5-4 Supreme Court vote allows same-sex couples to have access to the same benefits as heterosexual couples including family reunification.  What the Senate could not and refused to do in the negotiation of the Senate immigration bill S.744, this decision has accomplished. It will clear the path for LGBT Americans to petition for and reunite with their loves ones if immigration reform passes into law.  As an ally, I celebrate this victory with my LGBT brothers and sisters, and will continue to uplift other issues that intersect across communities. I thank Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan for standing strong on the right side of history.

However, I am extremely disappointed by the 5-4 Supreme Court decision to gut Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). By effectively striking down the heart of VRA, state election laws will change without advance federal approval. This will already allow nine states, most with a long history of racism and discrimination, to disenfranchise and deter voters from diverse communities. The legacy and fundamental principles the civil rights movements are at stake. Justice Scalia, one of five justices who argued that Section 5 is outdated, has severely underestimated the impact and need of voter protection from discrimination. Over the years, APALA has fought to protect and empower voters from the ongoing assault against civic participation. From extreme voter I.D. laws to voter suppression tactics, voters have long endured strategies to strip them of their rights. The Voting Rights Act plays a vital role in allowing as many people to vote as possible.  APALA, along-side diverse communities and labor unions, will continue to fight against discriminatory practices.

On Monday, the Supreme Court gave an unresolved ruling on Fisher vs University of Texas, a case involving diverse inclusion and affirmation action within college admissions. The 7-1 vote will send the case back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. The lack of clarity from the highest court in our country leaves us at a standstill on diversity inclusion across all college campuses. Once again, the legacy of the civil rights movement of the 1960s calls on our communities to speak out and stand up for justice.

I continue to remain vigilant and committed to addressing equality and equity for all communities, especially those that have long been marginalized and oppressed. Though the Supreme Court decisions deeply and widely impact the lives of our community members, we must remind ourselves that our communities hold the power to fight for our families and our future.

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The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO was founded in 1992 as the first and only national organization for Asian Pacific American union members to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. For more information, visit www.apalanet.org and follow@APALAnational