Why World Relief's Jenny Yang Feared Speaking on Immigration
Image: World Relief
Jenny Yang

On a recent Sunday morning, Jenny Yang stood beside a giant wooden cross and made a case for immigration reform to members of an evangelical church.

"As Americans, we have a responsibility when the laws are not working for the common good to change them," she intoned from the pulpit.

The talk was part of a broader, cross-country effort to persuade evangelicals to back the bipartisan immigration bill that's working its way through Congress.

Yang, 33, is one of the leading voices behind the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of influential pastors and lobbyists working to drum up support for reform among believers and members of Congress.

As the vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, she frequently appears in the media urging a path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

But before the interviews with NPR and her op-ed in The Washington Post, this movement leader was reluctant to speak up, fearing her own identity might be an obstacle to change.

"I thought people would discount my voice as an Asian American," she said. "I thought they would say, 'Oh, of course she would talk about immigration because she's an immigrant.'"

Yang was born in Philadelphia to South Korean immigrants and grew up attending a Korean Presbyterian church. In her younger years, she didn't give much thought to her family's immigrant identity—their U.S. citizenship meant they didn't have to face the hurdles that confront many unauthorized immigrants.

"I was probably in the same boat as any American in struggling over how to think about this, as an ...

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Why World Relief's Jenny Yang Feared Speaking on Immigration
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