Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another Family Broken by the Feds

by Brian Ettkin
Albany Times Union
January 27, 2008

April Park wants her life back. She wishes for her husband to be allowed to return to this country. She longs for the time and energy to expend time and energy on her children again.
These are not unreasonable wishes.

It's been nearly six months since Jung Park was deported to his native country, South Korea, because he didn't have legal status. She hates when the word "deported" is affixed to her husband's name. "It just makes him sound like a bad person. It was not his fault what happened," she said. "I don't want anyone to have a bad picture of him." Bad picture of Master Park? You kidding me? The guy's the best thing for kids since milk.

He didn't just teach a sport at Chong Hyo Century Tae Kwon Do, the Ballston Lake school he and April own. His lessons were on self-discipline and respecting parents and elders. "It's like having an extra parent in the house," said Rich Smith, a parent of two of Park's students. Because Smith doesn't have to threaten his kids with punishment if they do something wrong. He just has to inform them he'll tell Master Park if they do.

Park, 34, doesn't ask for respect. It's gladly given because kids crave discipline and Master Park's approval. So it's not a surprise when another parent whose son was having behavioral problems at school tells how her son's behavior improved dramatically after enrolling in tae kwon do classes because of Master Park's influence. Kids never want to disappoint him.

Park's students don't understand why their teacher was taken. Try telling a 6-year-old this happened, as the Parks say, because an attorney they hired failed to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Buffalo before the deadline, so Master Park, who doesn't have a green card or U.S. visa, was deported to Uijeongbu, South Korea. Good luck explaining to an 8-year-old how April has hired a lawyer in Buffalo, Robert Kolken, to file a grievance with the New York State Bar Association against the lawyer the Parks contend provided ineffective assistance and to file a motion so the case might be reopened. How do you tell an 11-year-old that April has also retained another immigration lawyer, Eric Copeland of Latham, to try to gain U.S. citizenship for her husband because of the extreme hardship she'd suffer if he weren't allowed to return?

This can take months. Or years. Nobody knows how long. That doesn't make sense to anyone. Not the kids and not April. The waiting gnaws on April's mind because no one can tell her when her husband will be permitted to return home. "It'd be much easier for me if they said, 'OK, it's going to be six months, it's going to be a year,' to have a light at the end of the tunnel," said April, who married Jung on Sept. 23, 2006.

The students don't know about the broken promises Jung says were made by the owner of another martial arts academy who recruited Jung to teach at his school -- with the assurance Jung would have a U.S. visa within a year after he arrived in Clifton Park in 1999. The students just know that they adore him. And they miss him...

Copyright 2008 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation

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