If Andrew Jung dribbles down the court, sprints past opponents on his way to the basket, and makes the game-winning shot for his high school basketball team, he can t share that moment with his parents because they aren t in the stands.
The 17-year-old can t run into his house beaming with excitement to tell his parents he scored really well on a project he spent hours and hours completing because they aren t there, either.
I feel like they are missing out, he said.
The Sylvania resident has spent nearly two years without his parents and has grown from a teenager with little responsibility to a mature, young adult fighting to get his parents back into the United States.
Andrew s parents, Dae and Young, were declared illegal aliens by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and forced to return to South Korea in August, 2005, after living in Toledo for more than 20 years.
Being unable to watch him grow and accomplish at school is distressing to us, Mr. Jung wrote in an e-mail.
The Jungs came to Toledo in 1984 so Mr. Jung could attend the University of Toledo, but he was questioned by immigration officials in 1995 after not following through with plans to continue his education at a Michigan language school.
At a hearing a year later, the Jungs were ordered deported.
Five years later, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a work permit so Mr. Jung could take a job as a sushi chef at a Toledo restaurant despite the INS issuing deportation orders against the couple, who failed to show up for the 1996 deportation hearing to answer questions about their immigration status.
The couple argued they never knew of the hearing and they never tried to hide from authorities.
The Jungs are banned from entering the United States for 10 years, which is something Mr. Jung said is still hard to swallow and often haunts us.
Living far away
When Andrew, an American-born citizen, watched his parents board a plane to South Korea, the then-15-year-old knew it would be difficult living without them.
Several people have welcomed Andrew into their homes and treated him like family, he said. Their kindness doesn t erase the fact that his parents are thousands of miles away in another country.
Sylvania residents Leonard Jessop and his wife were named as Andrew s legal guardians by the youth s parents.
During the school year, Andrew stays with Bob and Mary Flamm, who work at Emmanuel Baptist as a school administrator and a first-grade teacher, respectively.
Many of Andrew s high school friends often talk about disagreements they have with their parents or complain about being grounded, but he considers his classmates lucky.
At least your parents are here, he tells them.
Mr. Jung said he and his wife have become somewhat accustomed to the separation from their son.
Accepting reality, however, hasn t made the situation any easier.
It still saddens us most that we are unable to be with Andrew, providing him with our care and direction, watching him grow and being within his reach when he is in need of us, Mr. Jung said.
Andrew and his parents talk online about three times a week, but he said it s not the same as having them here.
I miss their guidance and [I miss] them being there when I need to ask them a question that I know their input would be the most important, he said.
Common, every-day things you want to ask them, I have to hold off until I talk to them over the computer.
Four weeks in L.A.
After spending four weeks as an intern for the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium in Los Angeles, Andrew will spend the next year with his parents in South Korea.
He is expected to board a flight to California tomorrow evening.
Andrew expects to arrive in South Korea in mid August, and while there will take classes through a private Christian online school, improve his Korean language skills, and visit with family.
I just need to be with my parents for a year to catch up on lost time, he said.
He will return next summer and finish his senior year at Emmanuel Baptist.
Andrew recently returned from his fourth trip to Washington, D.C., after speaking with a number of elected officials in search of ways to get his parents back to the United States. It was a powerful experience, he said. I don t think all is lost yet.
Andrew, accompanied by Mr. Jessop, participated in the Dreams Across America train tour that took him from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.
The tour brought together 100 immigrants from across the country to share their stories, dispel myths, and serve as advocates for immigration reform.
The people Andrew met during the trip opened his eyes to the fact he s not alone in his fight for immigration reform.
Other people across the country have stories similar to his.
One man came to the United States from Iraq in 2000 and has been trying to get his wife to the States ever since.
A Polish man s wife and 6-year-old son were deported less than two weeks before the tour. Andrew said the man begged officials to do anything they could to help.
I m learning to realize that I might not want to do what I have to do, but I have to do it for the sake of my parents and the sake of my future, he said.
When Mr. Jessop and Andrew make trips to the nation s capital, they focus on meeting with leaders who represent Ohio in hopes of fixing what he calls a broken system.
System is flawed
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) who Andrew and Mr. Jessop have met with on their trips to Washington, agreed the immigration system is flawed.
It is imperative that we balance our legitimate national security questions with our history of welcoming those who come to America to escape oppression and poverty, Ms. Kaptur wrote in an e-mail.
Ms. Kaptur called Andrew s willingness to fight for his parents a true mark of leadership.
Andrew s separation from his parents has forced him to grow up faster than most high school students, Mr. Jessop said. But it s a situation the teenager has chosen to embrace.
Andrew has made a commitment to learn about the immigration process and use his experiences to inform people of the need for change within the system.
It s a matter of how you look at trials and tribulations of life, Mr. Jessop said. This is where you stand up and use that soap box and hope others join your crowd.
Andrew knows he can t let his fear of public speaking get in the way of his fight to bring his parents back to Toledo.
Every day for them [in South Korea] is a lot harder than what I go through here, he said.
And despite the distance between them, Andrew s parents still give him advice and remind him to take advantage of every opportunity.
We re here so we need you to work extra hard for us and yourself, they tell him.
Contact Laren Weber at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6050.