Today in the United States there are 1.4 million immigrant Americans who have lived here since they were young, did not come here of their own volition, and yet still are not citizens. They have been raised in our communities, gone to our schools, and they desire to be full members of our country. They are our neighbors, church members, and friends. This is an interview with a dear friend of mine by the name of John Young*. He is quite possibly one of the most optimistic, others-centered person I know, with an amazing servant’s heart. I was going to write a piece on why we need the DREAM Act, but I decided to instead let him speak for himself.
Joe Laughon: Where are you from and where is your family from? When did they come here?
John Young: Seoul, South Korea. We arrived in California December of 1994.
JL: Why did your family decide to stay? What went into their decision?
JY: My family had arrived legally, with the intention of becoming permanent citizens for the sake of our education. My parents applied for citizenship through a law firm investing most of their life saving. Unfortunately, they turned out to be con artists, stealing our money. The decision to stay was that they had already sold everything in Korea and wanted to stay to see if there were other ways to become an American, but they became more fearful as most immigrants are.
JL: Do you think the laws concerning immigration and naturalization should be changed? How so and what do you think of the current immigration bill?
JY: Yes I do believe they should be changed. Obviously there is too large of a pandemic of immigrants coming illegally and there needs to be a way of stopping that but for the immigrants who are already here, especially the ones who arrived legally and as children, should be permitted a much easier way towards citizenship. Those children were just following their parents and are now condemned for something that was entirely out of their hands. Immigrants who arrived as children legally, who basically grew up in the United States thinking they were just like everyone else, should be permitted toward citizenship if they so desire.
JL: Considering how long you’ve lived in America, how American do you feel and what does “Americanness” mean to you? Do you feel more connected to America or your home country?
JY: I have lived in America for about 19 years now, and feel 100% American. I have passed through the entire public education system from preschool to graduating high school, as well as currently attending a university in the United States. My family pays taxes, we have social security numbers, we celebrate Independence day, love the pride that comes with singing the national anthem and take joy in reciting the pledge of allegiance. As far as Korea, I know very little about it and it means little to me.
JL: What is the career path that you want? Do you think it would be more possible in America or back home?
JY: The career path I have chosen is actually leadership development. I desire to be a camp director to train young missionaries to go out into the world for the sake of the Gospel. My primary language is English, and the camps I have connected with are here in the United States.
JL: Do you consider your faith an important part of your life? How has America or the immigrant experience influenced your faith?
JY: It is not necessarily my faith that I take seriously but the object of my faith: Jesus Christ. He is the most important person,and aspect of my life. America and especially its government have heavily influenced my faith, especially regarding my identity. There were days when applying for universities (after having graduated high school with honors), feeling so lost because I knew I didn’t get financial aid (before DACA) and knowing that I come from a very poor family. I felt like all that hard work from K-12 was virtually for nothing because obviously I wasn’t going to get married at 18. Furthermore the government has done a fine job making sure it reminds me constantly that I am an alien, without being able to obtain a working visa, driver’s license, financial aid, and etc… So when the good news of the Gospel proclaims to me that “But our citizenship belongs in Heaven,” (Philippians 3:20a) it brings me great joy. It aligns my identity with the person of Jesus and gives me the faith and the zeal to move forward. Whether I get citizenship in America or not makes no difference in the fact that my identity is rooted in God. This faith allows me to stay true to God Who is faithful, instead of succumbing to the temptation of illegal actions. There were several times I myself was tempted, but my faith roots me in the truth that I am to respect this government and its ways and to respect this establishment. Until then, always remembering as C.S. Lewis states, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
JL: Considering your Christian faith and what the Bible says about obeying the governing authorities (Romans 13) and the command to take care of your family first (1 Timothy 5), how do you feel about immigration that is illegal and giving citizenship to those that make a voluntary decision to come here without papers?
JY: Honestly, every person has a story. Every family has a story. I believe that people go where God has called them to and sometimes people are escaping something and that this country was built by immigrants to be a land for the free.
JL: Politically would you identify yourself as more conservative or liberal?
JY: Politically I would identify myself as more of a conservative, even though it seems as though liberals have done more to help the immigrant population.
JL: What would you like to say to Christians who oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and Christians who dislike illegal immigrants?
The call to love the unlovely is the essence of the Gospel, for that is how God loves us. The good news is that He died for us while we were still yet sinners. It was never loving us after He made us lovely, or that God saves us only after we somehow make ourselves unblemished and pure. It has always been that God steps off His throne and stoops to love and rescue. And so I would ask you Christians, who claim allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom first and foremost before any other established government, to take a long hard look on how you view and treat the ‘aliens.’
The New Testament is clear that until Jesus died, we were all aliens and foreigners to the Gospel. This levels the playing field for all of us. So please, before you judge, criticize, ridicule, or write off undocumented “aliens”, remember Jesus died for us too, and that He loves us. We would love the same freedoms you experience, to have a license, to get financial aid, but if we don’t, Jesus holds us and sustains us. But the next time you find yourself truly disliking illegal immigrants, you need to do a heart check and go back and read the four accounts of Jesus. Every time He encountered what society had deemed unlovely, He specifically went to those people; the prostitutes, the lame, the unclean, and He showed them a wild, all-consuming love that drew the sinner back to their Maker. Christian, be that kind of lover of Jesus so that the illegal immigrants would be able to experience that tenacious love of God in you, and be drawn to want to know Jesus! What I am saying is that you show them the love of Christ none the less! No matter where Jesus went, sinners flocked to Him. He was a place of refuge and strength, healer of brokenness and the Prince of Peace. Christian, are the aliens, or sinners, are they flocking to you today? Do they know you are a place of safety, of loving-kindness that looks beyond their mistakes?
JL: Just this last one. Recently anti-reform Rep. Steven King (R-IA) said that most DREAMers are “drug mules” who have calves the size of “cantaloupes”. For the ladies out there, I am curious. Do you have cantaloupe sized calves?
JY: Oh, totally.
*John Young is a pseudonym in order to protect his identity and privacy.
Joseph Laughon is a lifelong Republican and a proud Mexican-American. He was a campaign consultant to Martha Flores-Gibson in 2012 and was both the Vice Chairman of the College Republicans at Concordia University and the President of Nuestra Voz. He lives and writes in San Buenaventura, California.