My View

‘Practically All My Friends Are Immigrants’

A China-born teen gets her south Chicago neighbors to the polls, and vows to “keep working until I’m reassured that no families are going to be separated.”

Carmen Yang is a Chicago-area teen looking to improve civic engagement in her immigrant community.
National Journal
March 5, 2014, 4:34 a.m.

Jia Min “Car­men” Yang, 18, ar­rived in Chica­go from China at age 7, speak­ing no Eng­lish. She ques­tioned her place in the United States. El­ev­en years later, that un­cer­tainty has spurred Yang to be­come an im­mig­rant act­iv­ist, em­bra­cing the Amer­ic­an ideal that every per­son can make a dif­fer­ence.

In Decem­ber, Yang lob­bied mem­bers of Con­gress in Wash­ing­ton with oth­er ad­voc­ates for im­mig­ra­tion re­form at events or­gan­ized by We Be­long To­geth­er. She’s also in­volved in Mik­va Chal­lenge, a Chica­go or­gan­iz­a­tion that gets youth in­volved in the polit­ic­al pro­cess. And she vo­lun­teers with her loc­al com­munity cen­ter, the Chinese Amer­ic­an Ser­vice League.

She lives in the south side of Chica­go, in Chin­atown, at­tend­ing Thomas Kelly Pub­lic High School in Brighton Park. At Kelly, Yang is part of a com­munity where 96 per­cent of the 3,200 stu­dents with­in its bound­ar­ies come from low-in­come fam­il­ies and where the stu­dent body is 87 per­cent His­pan­ic, 8 per­cent Asi­an (largely Chinese), 3 per­cent white, and 2 per­cent black. She hopes to at­tend the Uni­versity of Wis­con­sin (Madis­on) or the Uni­versity of Illinois (Urb­ana-Cham­paign) to study pub­lic re­la­tions or pub­lic policy.

This in­ter­view, con­duc­ted by Jody Bran­non, has been ed­ited for length and clar­ity.

I am an im­mig­rant, and emig­rated when I was 7. That was 11 years ago. The im­mig­ra­tion is­sue is very im­port­ant to me and my whole fam­ily. Prac­tic­ally all my friends are im­mig­rants. In the Asi­an-Amer­ic­an cul­ture, we tend to really rely on sib­lings’ [sponsored] ap­plic­a­tions [to come to Amer­ica]. If they take that away, we’ll be sep­ar­ated.

Dur­ing the [We Be­long To­geth­er] Wish for the Hol­i­days cam­paign, I made many friends and heard them give speeches. Listen­ing to them tell their their per­son­al stor­ies about their fam­il­ies be­ing sep­ar­ated breaks my heart. I was es­pe­cially in­spired by the little chil­dren who bravely speak out. Al­though they may be young, they know what’s go­ing on, and they feel the same pain as their par­ents who are taken away from them. Be­ing a part of the live audi­ence al­lowed me to have deep­er em­pathy to­ward these youth. I con­nect to them and feel their pain, and it only made me more pas­sion­ate about this is­sue. It an­gers me to know this is hap­pen­ing, and I really want to help change it.

Over the course of my high school life, I have been very in­volved in my com­munity. I have ded­ic­ated over 800 hours total in at­tempts to be­ne­fit my com­munity and im­prove the neigh­bor­hood. From my fresh­man year to ju­ni­or year, I worked on pro­jects such as the Get Out the Vote cam­paign. This pro­ject helped get more fund­ing and re­sources for the com­munity.

In the Get Out the Vote cam­paign, I vo­lun­teered to im­prove the voter-turnout rate of the com­munity. My com­mit­ment to the cam­paign en­abled me to be­come a vote cap­tain. My job was to train the new vo­lun­teers to can­vass, phone bank, and help out whenev­er needed. At the end of it all, we man­aged to have the highest num­ber of re­gistered voters for three years straight.

At the end of the cam­paign, I was presen­ted with the “Most Ami­able Vote Cap­tain” award.

Work­ing on these pro­jects, I have learned that people have to be de­term­ined and co­oper­ate to­geth­er as one in or­der to make changes. It may take a long time to see the res­ults and get what we de­serve, however, through hand­work and com­mit­ment, those things will come.

I really like work­ing around people, and I think I’m go­ing down the road to­ward com­munity heal­ing and so­cial work.

There are a lot of people — 11 mil­lion in this coun­try — who are un­doc­u­mented, and 5.5 mil­lion of them are kids. Every­one here is fight­ing to­geth­er, and this needs to hap­pen. We’ll con­tin­ue to fight un­til it does. I’ll keep work­ing un­til I’m re­as­sured that no fam­il­ies are go­ing to be sep­ar­ated, no par­ents are go­ing to be sent back — and we can go to school without fear that someone will be gone when we get home.

Justice will end all of that.

MY VIEW OF THE NEXT AMER­ICA

Are you part of the demo­graph­ic that is the Next Amer­ica fol­lows? Are you a cata­lyst who fosters change for the next gen­er­a­tion? Or do you know someone who is? The Next Amer­ica wel­comes first-per­son per­spect­ives from act­iv­ists, thought lead­ers and people rep­res­ent­at­ive of a di­verse na­tion. Email us. And please fol­low us on Twit­ter and face­book.com/TheNex­tAmer­ica.

What We're Following See More »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
6 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
6 days ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
6 days ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login