During his State of the Union address, Donald Trump doubled down on ending “chain migration”. He said, “The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration — under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children.”
I am a beneficiary of “chain migration” in America. According to history.com, “The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, abolished an earlier quota system based on national origin and established a new immigration policy based on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor to the United States. Over the next four decades, the policies put into effect in 1965 would greatly change the demographic makeup of the American population, as immigrants entering the United States under the new legislation came increasingly from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as opposed to Europe.”
On a cold day in January of 1976, my mother, my four brothers and I said goodbye to our extended family in a small fishing village in South Korea to immigrate to United States of America to pursue the American Dream. My nine-year-old brain tried to comprehend the concept of having running water and toilets in houses in America. In 1976, South Korea was not industrialized and very much a third world country. I used my first toilet in Seoul just before we hopped on the plane for the first time.
My mother’s sister sponsored our entry into the United States. She fell in love with a soldier stationed in South Korea, got married then immigrated to Vermont. When my mother was struggling to raise her five children in a third world nation, my aunt sponsored us through “chain migration”, the family-based immigration system.
With excitement and fear, we boarded the plane and attempted to eat steak and mashed potatoes on our long journey to New York City. My 3 year-old baby brother developed a life-threatening fever on the flight and I feared that we made the wrong decision to immigrate to America when I saw his little body submerged in an ice bath at the hospital. Thankfully, his fever broke and we flew to Vermont to settle in a small town that had one general store and no other Koreans.
I can still remember the eyes fixated on four South Korean children who had hopped on the yellow school bus to attend the elementary school. We only knew how to say “Hello” and “Thank You” during the first week of school in America. Within a year, we moved to Barre, the third largest city in Vermont. My four brothers and I became whitewashed as we abandoned our native language and our culture to blend in with the other Vermonters the best that we could. My mother studied tirelessly so that we could become naturalized. I became a proud American in high school and I was thrilled that I could vote when I turned 18. We knew education was key to achieving our American Dream so we studied and worked hard. Now, we contribute to our society, we pay taxes and we vote.
I married the only Caucasian who could beat me in a math contest in 6th grade. He was born and raised in Vermont. We moved to Connecticut right out of college to work and start our family. In 1999, we made a decision to move to Newtown to raise our four children. A year and a half after my youngest graduated from Sandy Hook Elementary School, my neighbor shot his mother in her bed then drove to the school to senselessly and brutally gun down innocent children and teachers with an AR-15 and high capacity magazines. On that tragic day, I made a commitment to do all I can to protect all children and families from gun violence in America. I have been leading the Newtown Action Alliance and the Newtown Foundation for the last five years, volunteering my time to make America safe again.
In his State of the Union address, Donald Trump also signaled that he wants to admit people “who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country,” by ending the visa lottery. If Donald Trump and the Grand Old Party (GOP) end “chain migration” and the visa lottery program then people like my mother would not have made the cut. I would still be living in South Korea and not contributing to the American society; not loving and respecting this nation; and most certainly not voting. The State of Vermont would have been more white. America would have been more white and less progressive.
I suppose that is the ultimate goal – to make America more white again. The 1965 immigration policy has created a more diverse America, which is a political threat to the Republican Party. According to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Diversity Explosion”, the non-Hispanic white population will begin to decline after 2025 and minorities are expected to be the majority by 2045.
As an American, an immigrant, a woman and a mother, I have been personally offended by the careless words spewed from his mouth or in a tweet and it saddened me that so many Americans continue to support Donald Trump and his racist xenophobic sexist views and policies. Because I desire to live in a nation that celebrates diversity, I will continue to resist the Trump and the GOP agenda along with the organizers and supporters of the Women’s March Connecticut. I thank President Lyndon B. Johnson for signing the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 that opened the door for my family and gave me an opportunity to love this nation enough to fight like hell to make it great again.