Joon Hyun Kim’s a Success

Some of you may remember the story of Joon Hyun Kim. It echoes several similar stories of adoptees caught up in the immigration and citizenship process exacerbated by their criminal records. If you’re interested in reading Mr. Kim’s story again check out my post on May 7, 2007.

I just received word that a judged ruled in his favor canceling the removal (deportation) charges originally brought against him. I’ve been told that the judge said “everybody has family problems,” and that paired with expert testimony have paved the way for his deportation charges to be dropped.

I’m thrilled to hear that Mr. Kim’s case was successful-but I also feel that again, this brings up many more unanswered questions in regards to citizenship and the immigration debate which currently is being revisited. Prior to Mr. Kim’s deportation charges being dropped, in a sense, many transracial adoptees waited with baited breath. I mentioned this concept a month ago in reaction to one discussion on TRA at the AAAS conference. It’s almost as if transracial Asian adoptees are the model minority within the model minority. How do most deportation trials go when family members of Latino descent ask to stay with their children in the U.S.?

I just hope that we can look at these nuanced experiences as adoptees residing within current immigration debates. How do we exist as immigrants, and how do we not? How are we privileged immigrants in ways that non-adoptee immigrants are not? How is it that many of us take it for granted that we were naturalized in the U.S. and pay no attention to the thousands and millions of immigrant families who are just as entitled to the lives we lead? It’s a success story for Mr. Kim, and to many other adoptees in similar situations. But I think that even further, it is a testament to the fact that there is room to reapply these same leniencies to the thousands of immigrant families who ironically, have waged symbolic campaigns to legally adopt those illegally in residence. How many conservatives will see Mr. Kim’s case as amnesty? This case was obviously not predicated on any notion of amnesty, it was based solely on his character as an American and caught between dueling worlds-not very different from immigrant families who are caught between their home countries and the very real needs of their families and the very real visceral feeling that any parent can attest to of wanting to provide the very best. But how many of these families are evaluated on the basis of character or realizing like Mr. Kim’s judge did that learning a new language and culture are extremely difficult and far near impossible. These same immigrant families deal with this every day living in the U.S. and yet are treated much worse than Mr. Kim was in his deportation hearing. Most aren’t even granted fair hearing or trial.

Not to put a dampen on his victory which I think is a huge victory for the many adoptees whose parents for whatever reasons did not naturalize them, but I do think there are ways for us to take this victory and move towards a more universal goal of civil liberties and citizenship for all undocumented immigrants.


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