“We were like any other family before this happened, leading a normal life,” said Mr. Chung, husband of Kyeong Sook Hwang.
November 25, 2011 was a day after Thanksgiving. It was when Ms. Hwang was unexpectedly arrested at the New Jersey Somerset County DMV while trying to renew her license. She remains in jail today, separated from her husband and their two children, who are 11 and 3 years old.
Ms. Hwang came to the U.S. in 1996 in pursuit of a better life—the typical and familiar American Dream many Korean Americans strive for. She built a life here. She became a wife and a mother of a daughter and a son, for whom she always drove to drop off and pick up from school. This was the reason why she was renewing her driver’s license that day.
But Ms. Hwang is an illegal immigrant, which legally complicates the situation.
“It's two-fold,” said Jae Sup Song, a representative from the MinKwon Center. “The case right now is being counted as criminal. Once that gets resolved, it will most likely turn into an immigration case. At that point, we will then continue to fight against Ms. Hwang’s deportation.”
Mr. Chung wonders why the case was not treated as just an immigration case from the start, but rather filed as a criminal case by the authorities.
Mr. Chung drives a big truck as part of his job. He delivers beverages to groceries and delis, working 6 days a week. His shift usually lasts up to 12 hours. Ever since Ms. Hwang’s arrest, he has been playing both the roles of father and mother to their children. Life has drastically changed for every member of the family since last November. The children are told that their mother is in Korea, an excuse that may only las tfor a while.
“They really need their mom right now. I take them to school and pick them up. Then, I take them to work with me at 3PM,” said Mr.Chung. “I can’t afford a babysitter. Even eating all meals is hard, but this is the only way.”
Ms. Hwang gets to call in once a day from Somerset County Jail to ask her husband how the family is doing in her absence.
“I hear her voice, she cries, says she wants to come home, wants to see the children. And It really hurts that I can’t do anything,” said Mr. Chung.
What You Can Do:
2. Sign the petition for Ms. Hwang’s release so that she can return to her family at http://www.change.org/petitions/help-ms-hwang.
This is a copy of the petition:
# # # # #
Lift Detainer on Keong Sook Hwang [DOB: 03/06/1973]
I just signed the following petition addressed to: John Tsoukaris, ICE Newark Field Office Director.
I write to request that you exercise your prosecutorial discretion to lift the detainer on Keong Sook Hwang [DOB: 03/06/1973].
Ms. Hwang exemplifies what it means to be an American, and should be granted prosecutorial discretion to stay in the U.S. to live her American Dream. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1996 in hopes of a better future for her family. As a resident of this country for the past 16 years, Ms. Hwang has become a wife and the mother of two U.S. citizen children, a law-abiding and tax-paying member of society, and a contributing member of her community.
On November 25, 2011, Ms. Hwang was arrested at the New Jersey Somerset County DMV trying to renew her driver’s license. She had done so in order to meet her family’s basic needs – such as the ability to drop her son off at school or to make a trip to the supermarket, but she did not understand the consequences of renewing her driver’s license with her current status. Ms. Hwang is a person of good moral character with no other criminal record, and the action for which she has been charged has harmed no one. Like many immigrants, she has worked hard to provide for her family. For over ten years, Ms. Hwang worked at a nail salon and filed her taxes, and after the birth of her second child in 2008 she has been a dedicated stay-at-home mother taking care of her two young children. In order to make ends meet, her husband has been working a grueling twelve hours a day, six days a week as a delivery truck driver.
Ms. Hwang’s two U.S. citizen children depend on their mother and desperately need her at home. Her 11-year-old son has been struggling with health issues since birth, born as a three-pound premature baby who had a hernia three months later and received testicular surgery when he was 5 years old. Today, her son is still smaller in stature than other children his age, and his doctor counsels the need for constant care and attention until he reaches puberty. Her 3-year-old daughter is very young and needs the nurturing hand of her mother. At this time, without a caretaker at home and unable to afford a baby sitter, Ms. Hwang’s husband has no choice but to bring their daughter in his car as he works as a deliveryman, with their son joining them after school. If deported, Ms. Hwang will be separated from her U.S. citizen children, who will suffer tremendously. Her family needs her here.
In a recent announcement, Secretary Napolitano stated new guidelines for Prosecutorial Discretion. According to these guidelines, Ms. Hwang is not deemed a priority for removal by the Department of Homeland Security and merits a favorable exercise of discretion. She has lived and filed taxes in the U.S. for over ten years, has demonstrated good moral character with no criminal record and has young U.S. citizen children who will face great hardships if she is deported.
I urge you to take immediate action and lift the detainer on Keong Sook Hwang. Please help keep Ms. Hwang in the country with her family and supportive community.