I grew up in Georgia for most of my life. I always wanted to engage in community activism in Georgia, but was never sure. As a student at the University of Georgia, Athens, I became involved with student activism, but did not have the opportunity to do community activism specifically in my own Korean American community. Today, I got my chance to work in Georgia with our Dream Riders and address immigration issues that impact Korean American and AAPI communities.
Georgia is considered by some to be the birthplace of the civil rights movement, with the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial also located here in Atlanta. The Freedom Summers and Freedom Riders came to the South to advance civil rights for all. Many communities, including ours, were inspired by the Freedom Riders and their steadfast determination to challenge the wrongs of that time. With the current assault on the Voting Rights Act and the recent decision on the murder of Trayvon Martin, we know that this is a continuous fight. In our battle to realize the rights of the 11 million undocumented and aspiring Americans in this country, we were inspired by and wanted to be pay homage to the larger social justice movement. It is in solidarity and community with our brothers and sisters of color and low income families that we chose our campaign name of Dream Riders.
NAKASEC, KRC, and KRCC have been working with undocumented youth since 1998, a few years before the federal DREAM Act was first introduced by Senator Dick Durbin. We have been mobilizing our youth and community members for many years. When the DREAM Act fell short by 5 votes in 2010, many of our youth members became disillusioned about the prospects of fixing our immigration system. When DACA was introduced last year, our youth were re-energized. In the first few months of the program’s implementation, KRC was inundated by thousands of calls from immigrant families across the country. As of now, KRC is close to reaching 900 DACA approvals. Overall, DACA recipients from South Korea are 6,440 and still counting.
With the anniversary of DACA coming up and the August Recess, NAKASEC, KRC, and KRCC feel the urgency within our communities to march forward as a unified voice and win citizenship and equal rights for all immigrants. We understand the need to focus in in states with emerging AAPI communities such as Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
Today, Helen Kim Ho of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, and Travis Kim of the Korean American Association of Greater Atlanta, hosted a press conference and luncheon in Atlanta for our Dream Riders. Several community members and media outlets, both ethnic and mainstream, covered the event. As our Dream Riders spoke, I could see many of the community members and even the reporters fight hard to hold back their emotions. The Dream Riders spoke about their desire to attend college, the daily hardships that their parents face, their own fears and challenges. The Dream Riders also spoke about their sense of responsibility and resolve to act on behalf of their families.
Georgia has banned undocumented students, from attending its top public universities and colleges. Even though some students are able to apply to community colleges, these students are still discriminated against. The following day, the Dream Riders will meet up with Freedom University and Georgia Undocumented Student Alliance to share each other’s stories. GUYA was initiated by Keish Kim, one of NAKASEC’s New Organizing Project bloggers.
You can support the Dream Riders as they continue on their road trip to Louisiana and Texas.
-Dong Yoon Kim, NAKASEC