Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Young Writers, Untold Civil Rights

Thursday, May 25th 2017

Teacher Appreciation and Student Award Ceremony

First row: Winning students Isleen Lee, Raisa Uddin, Yedsen De La Cruz, Gabrielle Robel, Breeze Hernandez, Jasmine Kim, James  Evans (teacher), Viviana Moreno. Second row: Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice-LA, L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, Helen Yu from Alliance of Asian Pacific Administrators (AAPA), Teachers: Wonnie Pak, Amy Tokeshi, Amy Lee, Minh Anderson, Chuck Diep, Jonathan Lee, Robert Oye from AAPA.

This year, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) held its second annual Untold Civil Rights Stories writing contest. The contest was co-sponsored by Advancing Justice-LA, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, and the Los Angeles Unified School District Alliance of Asian Pacific Administrators. 

The purpose of the writing contest is to encourage students to learn about Asian American heroes and movements, and how these civil rights struggles may be relevant today in their own lives. Often, Asian American civil rights stories are not touched upon in classrooms. This contest is meant to inspire creativity, create interest and excitement in civil rights, and to recognize teachers who take the extra effort to teach their students about our untold civil rights stories.

Students from across the country submitted their stories to us and 25 winners were selected. Winners were presented with their awards during Advancing Justice-LA’s 8th annual Family Fest at California State University, Los Angeles.

We’re proud to share an essay by one of our contest winners, 4th grader Gabrielle Robel from Eagle Rock Elementary and Magnet Center in Los Angeles, CA. Her essay “The Justice of Immigrants” was inspired by Li Keng Wong’s immigration story. Read it in full, below.


The Justice of Immigrants
By Gabrielle Robel

People have opinions about immigrants, but have they ever walked in their shoes?  Li Keng Wong’s life in her village in China was difficult, so she came to America thinking her life would be better. Many immigrants like Li Keng come to the U.S. because of challenges in their homeland. However, many immigrants starting with the Chinese in the late 1800’s have faced discrimination and trials coming to the U.S. Certain presidents of the U.S. including Trump have banned certain classes of immigrants. This is something that should not be repeated.

People have their own ideas about immigrants but have never thought what happened to them or the story behind why they came to America. Many people think that immigrants are poor, but that is not always true, and some get little pay like migrant farmworkers. Many immigrants are limited in resources such as health care and they can’t afford it. Undocumented immigrants are not allowed to these resources. When Li Keng Wong arrived in San Francisco, before she could even enter the country legally, officers had to check that she was healthy and not contagious. Otherwise, they would have to send her back to China in shame.

Many immigrants came to the U.S because their homeland was dangerous or they weren't doing well in their previous country. Li Keng Wong’s village was poor and her father needed to find a job to provide his new family. Some immigrants come now as kids. Many come to escape poverty and threats from their home country. A lot of the kids come from Central America because there are dangerous gangs and drug dealers including the Mara Salvatrucha. They came here to get out of that danger and difficulty so we should have some empathy. Before judging them right away, think of their story behind the reason of coming to the United States of America.

Li Keng Wong lived in her village in China she faced many difficult struggles so she moved to the U.S thinking life would be better, though she had to live in only certain parts of the city, even the country.

In the past many immigrants starting with the Chinese in the late 1800’s have faced discrimination and trials coming to the U.S., such as when Chinese were murdered by white men, they did not press charges because the person the white man killed was Chinese. The Chinese were considered ghosts because of their race. The Chinese Exclusion Act happened during the time of President Chester A. Arthur in 1882, and lasted 61 years. Unfortunately a similar policy is repeated in history. Donald Trump is now president and he is repeating history. Donald Trump is banning the Muslims temporarily. Trump is doing this because he thinks that Muslims are our problem of terrorism.

All in all, people are being excluded because of their race. Though this is what makes America different, the immigrants. There has to be a reason to why they come. Maybe they think the U.S. is safe. Maybe some people need to be kept out because of the safety of our nation.

Immigration is what makes this country great, just because we are different on the outside doesn’t mean we aren’t alike on the inside.

For Legal Help

Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.