Jenny Seon’s Story
My great aunt first came to the US from South Korea during the ‘70s because she was a nurse and wanted to pursue work here. It was my grandma who suggested that my great aunt do a family petition so that the rest of my family could immigrate to the US and stay together. My grandma wanted to come to the US because she thought it’d be a great opportunity for her children and their children’s children. She didn’t know what to expect, really, she came on a dream. Through family sponsorship, my great aunt petitioned my grandfather who then was able to bring my grandma, aunts, uncles, and finally my mom (I was born in the States). The sponsorship process was hardest on my mom, since she got petitioned last. She was alone in Korea for some time, so that was a struggle for her.
Fortunately, at the time, keeping family units together was a mission for USCIS (formerly called the “Immigration and Naturalization Services”), so the waiting time for my family to be reunited was not that long. All you had to do was show the family relationship and that was it. It was very different from the backlogs and long waiting period we are seeing today…
When my family first arrived, they had very little support and had to figure out almost everything by themselves. Luckily, there were five of them here, so they could lean on each other during these difficult times. My grandma worked at a Starkist Tuna factory for 40 years while my grandfather worked at a gas station to make ends meet.
Over time, my family grew from a unit of 5 to 27 folks living in Southern California together! My grandma now has great grandchildren here, and we all try to get together at least once a month. Although I am so happy that my family was able to reunite, it is still not safe for all of us. We have some undocumented relatives in our family who feel unsafe and are fearing for their safety, especially under this current Administration.
Their situation made other members of my family realize that the immigration system they thought they knew is not what it is now. This country gave the women in my family, like my grandma, the opportunity to be leaders in their family, but it is also keeping families apart through things like walls, long waiting periods, and threats to cut family petitions.
I wish people could understand that there are so many more things that we share than things that we don’t. We all have similar hopes and dreams for our family and a desire to remain with them. In my ideal world, families wouldn’t fear being separated, healthcare would be affordable, and we would all have the freedom to pursue what we want to do!
If there’s anything I’d want people to take away from my family’s story is that my family had a lot of hard times when they first came here, but they survived through family reunification. Without that support, I don’t think my family could’ve made it in the US. Now, our family has grown to second and even third generations, so to see other families being separated and not being able to reunite… it’s heartbreaking.