By now, most American readers will probably be familiar with Ju Hong, the Korean guy who heckled President Obama during—ironically enough—an immigration rally.
Hong has a history of, depending on how you look at it, gutsy political activism or outrageously mocking the people’s laws on immigration.
I didn’t think much about the incident at the time, other than being somewhat impressed by Obama’s handling of the incident and, likewise, somewhat perplexed as to why Hong and his family weren’t immediately placed on a plane back to Korea where he can do his two year’s military service like every other Korean male in his age cohort—I’m sure the ROK military has plenty of need for good English speakers.
Then I read an interview Hong gave with Yonhap News, where he calls immigration reform an “important matter for Korean-Americans and a human rights issue.” But more interestingly, he claims that one in seven Korean immigrants to the United States is undocumented.
The interview is worth reading, as it not only explains how Hong’s family ended up in Migukistan, but it’s also fun to compare its tone with the one Yonhap would have likely adopted had this been Ahmed the Illegal Bangladeshi Factory Worker from Ansan heckling President Park Geun-hye during a presidential speech.
At National Review, Mark Krikorian discusses the problem Hong’s case presents to immigration law enforcement—his family entered the country legally enough, but simply overstayed their visas. And as Hong himself told Yonhap, there are apparently a lot of Koreans doing this:
The salient fact here for immigration policy is that he came with his family on a tourist visa, and never left. Visa overstayers are believed to represent between a third and a half of the 12 million illegal aliens in the United States — and with improvements in border enforcement it’s possible the majority of new illegal aliens are overstayers. That translates to 4 to 6 million liars, people who swore they’d leave when their visit was over but didn’t, something at least as contemptible as sneaking into someone else’s country. Hong came as a child, so he wasn’t doing the lying, but he’s no more entitled to stay than the child of someone who lied on a mortgage application and later lost his home.
There are also more Korean illegal aliens than you might think. For instance, nearly 7,000 South Korean illegal aliens have been amnestied by Obama’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (a.k.a. the administrative Dream Act) through the end of August, making it the No. 5 country after Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Krikorian goes on to note that the problem—at least in Korea’s case—is made worse by the fact that Korea is included in the American visa waiver program:
Exacerbating this problem with regard to South Korea and other countries is the Visa Waiver Program. As the name suggests, people from the 37 countries on the list don’t have to get visas for short tourist or business trips. Only those countries whose citizens are very unlikely to overstay are supposed to be included in the program. Unfortunately, the main force expanding the list of participating countries has been lobbying pressure from the travel industry and foreign governments. South Korea was added in 2008 and Greece — Greece — in 2010. This has been a significant driver of illegal immigration; the GAO reported earlier this year that, of a very large sample of apparent overstays, nearly half were people who entered under the Visa Waiver Program.
To be honest, as far as nations of origin for illegal aliens go, you could do a lot worse than Korea, but still, something appears to be broken. Ultimately, it’s up to the United States to enforce its own immigration laws, but I wonder if perhaps there’s room for cooperation with Korean authorities to ensure Korean tourists don’t get lost on their visits, lest this become a bilateral diplomatic issue. You know, much in the way the Korean Foreign Ministry stepped in when a certain, ahem, segment of the Korean community in Australia became an issue.