Rep.-elect Young Kim brings empathetic approach to immigration: I have 'gone through the process'

Rep.-elect Young Kim brings empathetic approach to immigration: I have 'gone through the process'

January 1, 2021

McCarthy celebrates Young Kim win in CA: ‘This is the year of Republican women’

GOP House panel: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Congresswoman-elect Maria Salazar, R-Fl., and Congresswoman-elect Stephanie Bice, R-Ok., on ‘Fox &Friends Weekend.’

Rep.-elect Young Kim, who flipped a blue California House seat for the GOP, brings to Washington a keen understanding of the U.S. immigration system from her work as a longtime congressional staffer and her personal journey of becoming an American citizen. 

She knows that the system needs to be fixed. 

Kim immigrated to the United States from South Korea at age 12 thanks to the family-based immigration system that President Trump had wanted to eliminate. She supports the so-called "chain migration" program and wants to work across the aisle to improve the immigration system by being both fair and compassionate.


"Instead of talking points from the Republican Party on what the immigration system would look like, I actually bring the unique perspective of being an immigrant — someone who has gone through the process of coming here, waiting five years as a Green Card holder before you are allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship," Kim, 58, told Fox News in a recent interview.

Rep.-elect Young Kim, R-Calif., beat Democrat Rep. Gil Cisneros to flip the 39th District for Republicans. She lost to him in 2018. She’s among the first Korean American women to serve in Congress.
(Provided by the Young Kim campaign)

Kim was a congressional aide for former GOP Rep. Ed Royce in the 39th Congressional District that includes parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.

She ran for the seat in 2018 when Royce announced his retirement. She had her former boss's support, but Democrat Gil Cisneros, a former naval officer and lottery winner, beat her 52-48%.

The 2020 election was a rematch and Kim prevailed this time, 51- 49%.

"I'm glad I didn't give up," said Kim, a wife and mother of four children. 

Kim's 2020 win dealt a devastating blow to California Democrats and combined with other losses shrunk House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Democratic majority. Republicans hadn't unseated a House Democratic incumbent in California since 1994. This year, three California Republicans – Kim, Michelle Steel and David Valadao — together made history by beating Democrats and delivering the most GOP pickups of any state.

Kim is also among the first female Korean American women to serve in Congress along with Steel and Rep.-elect Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash. All three will be sworn in on Sunday. 

"My election really proves that the promise of America is alive and I'm the living proof of it," Kim said. 

Reps.-elect Young Kim (L) and Michelle Steel will be among the first Korean-American women elected to Congress. They are both California Republicans who beat House Democratic incumbents in November 2020.
(Michelle Steel campaign)

Immigration was a hot campaign issue in her multicultural district with a significant Asian and Latino population. Cisneros accused Kim of being an immigrant who doesn't support immigration. But Kim hit back saying she's a pro-immigration candidate who wants to preserve family-based migration and ensure the next generation will have the opportunities to live the American dream as she did. 

"I'm a legal immigrant," Kim said. "I've gone through all the systems so I think I can talk about them from the fairness of it, but also from the compassionate perspective."

Kim says there's a need for both merit and family-based immigration. She's sympathetic to refugees seeking asylum in the United States and to the plight of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. She wants to afford these so-called "Dreamers" legal status to live without fear of deportation.

"Their only crime is that they had loving, caring parents and family members [who] brought them over here – crossing the border, risking their lives because they wanted to provide the opportunity to realize the American dream for their next generation," Kim said. 


Kim grew up the youngest of seven children in South Korea. Her second oldest sister married an American in the U.S. Army and eventually petitioned to have the rest of the family join them in Guam, setting off the chain legal migration. Trump has repeatedly railed against the common form of immigration, implying at times it was a security threat, and pushing for a merit-based system that gives preference to the "best and brightest" from around the world. 

But Kim says families are better off united.

"Family-based keeps the nuclear family together," Kim said. "And that's probably the main reason why people come here. When they see what America can provide to them, they want to give that same opportunity for their next family members, especially the nuclear family — brothers and sisters and cousins, uncles. And then through them, it's a family chain system."

Kim went to junior high in Guam, then moved to Hawaii for high school. She went to California to attend the University of Southern California, where she met her future husband. They got married after graduation and began a life in California with their four kids. 

Rep.-elect Young Kim won back California’s 39th Congressional District for the GOP. The district includes parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.
(Provided by the Young Kim campaign)

Kim started out working as a financial analyst at a bank and a controller for a manufacturing company. At one point, she started a business manufacturing ladies' sportswear in L.A.'s garment district.

She ultimately connected with Royce and worked in outreach for him for 23 years starting in the state Senate. She was elected to one term in the State Assembly in 2014 and had Royce's backing when she ran for his seat in Congress.

Kim credits her 2020 success to her strong personal and professional ties to the community. Kim used to host local Los Angeles TV public affairs shows, including "LA Seoul with Young Kim" from 1998-2005.

"They know who I am," Kim said of the community. 

Even though she lost the election two years ago, she was still active in outreach events and felt an obligation to serve the community whether she had an official title or not. 

So when the coronavirus pandemic hit, members of the community came to her to coordinate donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical workers. She said she helped distribute 2 million supplies to deserving front-line workers.

During the campaign, Kim positioned herself as a moderate Republican who wants to lower regulations on businesses, increase trade, address homelessness, deliver market-based solutions for health care and fix a broken immigration system. 

Kim ran an ad saying Cisneros "deceived" voters by campaigning as an independent while voting with Pelosi 100% of the time — a sign that he's too liberal for the swing district.

Now that she's in office, Kim said there may be a scenario where she would vote with her party leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., all the time too.

"If it turns out to be 100% with the leadership that's because I believe that is the right thing for my district," Kim said. 

Former Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., endorsed Young Kim for the 39th District seat that he once represented. Kim worked for Royce in the state Senate and U.S. House for 23 years.
(Provided by the Young Kim campaign)

Working for Royce taught Kim about being magnanimous and building relationships before asking for favors, she said. She embraces his motto: "If you don't care who takes credit, you can get a lot of things done."


In the divided country in the midst of a pandemic, Kim said she will strive to be an independent voice in Washington who will work in a bipartisan way for solutions.

"I want to be the bridge to heal the divide that we've seen especially in this 2020 cycle," Kim said. 

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