Grace Pai’s Story
I wouldn't be here without our family immigration system -- multiple members of my family have come to the U.S. on family visas. My mom immigrated from South Korea to the U.S. on a family visa (sponsored by my grandfather's sibling) at age 13, after her mother died of cancer. As a newly single parent, my grandfather took his 5 children to the place where he had family -- Minnesota. He wanted better opportunities for his kids, and my mom and her siblings have benefited immensely from his sacrifices and hard work. On my dad's side, my paternal grandmother sponsored her sisters to come here from Korea and they helped raise me when I was a kid. Their support and care work enabled my parents to pursue further education and their careers -- my mom was the breadwinner for my family while my dad pursued his masters degree and ultimately a PhD. I spent countless hours among family growing up -- aunts, uncles, grandparents, my dad's cousins, great-aunts (who were all "grandmas" to me) -- and they have all made me who I am today.
My story feels especially relevant given the recent attacks by lawmakers on our family immigration system, most recently through President Trump's new immigration plan and the RAISE Act. Reuniting families is, and must continue to be, a critical purpose of our immigration system.
When families are together, our communities thrive. Family members step in to provide support in times of personal and economic hardship. Caretakers, who are predominantly women, spouses, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, do often unpaid and undervalued work that enables their family members to work outside the home and contribute to our economy. Together, families buy homes and start businesses that create jobs. There is no quantifiable measure for the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, or grit to open a small business or create innovation. My immigrant grandparents are proof -- they owned and ran a small garment factory for 20 years that employed many of their immigrant neighbors, and neither had a college degree. Immigrants started 28% of all new U.S. businesses in 2011, despite accounting for just 12.9% of the U.S. population, and many immigrant business owners came through our family-based immigration system. My family is the reason I’m a leader in the fight to protect, preserve and strengthen family-based immigration.