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02 May 2016

Outreach to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI): My Trip to Chicago

By Juliet K. Choi, USCIS Chief of Staff

One of the most satisfying parts of my job is engaging with the communities we serve. Last week, I was in Chicago for meetings in coordination with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI).

The purpose for our joint convening was to discuss USCIS’ efforts to encourage those eligible to naturalize to consider becoming U.S. citizens, and President Obama's Task Force on New Americans. We also discussed our efforts to help educate young people in Asian and Pacific Islander communities about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Korean American Resource and Cultural Center was gracious to provide the venue for these conversations. I had the opportunity to talk with members of the local ethnic media and conduct interviews with most of the reporters present. Epoch Times, Sing Tao Newspapers, World Journal, WinTV, The Korea Times Chicago, The Korea Daily, K-radio, News India Times, Chicago Sun-Times, China News and KBC Korean Broadcasting were all on hand. Doug Nguyen, the Great Lakes regional network lead from WHIAAPI, also addressed the media and talked about the WHIAAPI mission.

Above: Juliet K. Choi (second from right) addressing community leaders and stakeholders in Chicago

Afterward, we were joined by Rep. Jan Schakowsky and her staff; as well as senior staff from the offices of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Sen. Dick Durbin for a community conversation with local leaders and students.

We discussed the naturalization process, the unauthorized practice of immigration law, and ways to avoid falling victim to immigration scams. We also spent some time to encourage those Asians and Pacific Islanders who may meet the guidelines to request DACA, to do so. It’s crucial to get the word out that options like DACA exist, and that there is no shame in coming out of the shadows and seeking a better life.  

Above: Juliet Choi addresses a stakeholder roundtable

Inhe Choi together with Radhika Sharma of Apna Ghar, co-chairs of an Asian American and Arab American collaborative called A4CDA, did a wonderful job leading our discussion and helping coordinate this event. Community engagement – sharing useful, timely information and dispelling myths and misinformation -- is one of our top priorities at USCIS. We couldn’t do it without our relationships with local organizations like the ones we work with every day in Chicago and across the country.

We deeply appreciate the participation at this event by groups including:
  • Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment
  • World Relief Chicago
  • Latinos Progresando
  • Chinese American Service League
  • Southeast Asian American Policy and Research InstituteAsian American Advancing Justice Chicago
  • Chinese Mutual Aid Association
  • Muslim Women’s Resource Center
  • Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  • Y-USA
  • Arab American Action Network
  • Korean American Community Services
  • Korean American Association of Chicago
  • DePaul Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic
And so many more.

We are also able to participate in events like this because of our talented and mission-driven USCIS staff.  During our engagements, USCIS had a table with multilingual resources and staff from our Chicago office. We had bilingual staff on hand who speak Arabic, Gujarati, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Urdu and Spanish. USCIS is committed to providing our limited English proficient customers with meaningful access to our services and information.

Above: Taking questions from the media

Being the daughter of Korean immigrants informs my world view and gives me a different sense of empathy about the difficult personal choices that go into any family's immigration journey. I am very grateful for, and pleased with, the conversations we had in Chicago. Meeting face-to-face is so important in fostering trust and stronger working relationships. Only by sitting down with the community and engaging in an open and honest dialogue can we better understand the issues, develop shared solutions, and strengthen channels of communication.

As we observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I look forward to celebrating the legacy and contributions of the AAPI community with you!

On social media:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: @USCIS
White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: @WhiteHouseAAPI
White House Task Force on New Americans: #NewAmericans, #StandStrongerUS


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