Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

HIRC staff and students with organizers of a Know Your Rights workshop at a school in Somerville.

By Jin Kim, JD ’18

“Welcome home, Mr. Kim.”

My heart still flutters whenever I come back to the United States after a trip abroad and the Customs and Border Protection officer welcomes me home. It’s the same feeling I had at my naturalization ceremony five years ago. I was overwhelmed with emotion when the federal judge handed me my naturalization certificate and congratulated me on becoming a U.S. citizen. Although I was not born in the U.S., I love this country and am so proud to call it my home.

And so it has been disheartening to see it become increasingly hostile to immigrants in the recent months. President Trump’s executive orders on immigration have set the tone, operating on a range of false assumptions about the criminality and extremist tendency of people who contribute so much to our country.

Unfortunately, this exaggerated, baseless fear of immigrants is not new. In 2001, my parents and I moved from Korea to the United States – the land of freedom and opportunity – in search of a better life after losing all our savings to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. A couple months after our move, we watched on our local news channel in Atlanta as two airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers. Then, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, as fear of immigrants swept across the nation, my family’s immigration process got delayed indefinitely. I remember the sense of hopelessness I felt after learning that we could not leave the country to attend my beloved grandfather’s funeral in Seoul because our Green Card applications had been stalled.

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