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New LA app in 5 languages aims to help immigrants who are detained

Jungwoo Kim, left, of the Korean Resource Center; Zu Kim, middle, an app developer, and Yongho Kim, right, of the KRC, discuss the new app at a press conference at the center, along with fellow developer Evan Friis, pictured on the screen.
Jungwoo Kim, left, of the Korean Resource Center; Zu Kim, middle, an app developer, and Yongho Kim, right, of the KRC, discuss the new app at a press conference at the center, along with fellow developer Evan Friis, pictured on the screen.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

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A Korean American group in Los Angeles and volunteer developers have created a multilingual smartphone app for immigrants who are worried about deportation and are stopped by authorities.

The app called "Know Your Rights" provides immigrants with a list of their basic legal rights in five languages: Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Immigrants can refer to the list to assert their rights when detained by immigration agents or stopped by police.

Speed-dial buttons also connect users with live help in Korean, English or Spanish.

For non-English speakers, there is a recorded message to play for authorities that starts with: “I plead the Fifth Amendment and choose to remain in silence …”.

"Know Your Rights" is the latest application designed for unauthorized immigrants. Similar apps have been available for several years, but as stricter enforcement of immigration laws and deportations increase under President Trump's administration, immigrant advocates see a growing need for the technology.

The app's developers said it is also the first to include Asians among its target users.

The
The "Know Your Rights" mobile app, developed by a Korean American community group and local volunteer developers, aims to help unauthorized immigrants assert their rights when detained by authorities. The app's features are available in five languages.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The Korean Resource Center, a community service nonprofit in Koreatown and part of the advocacy group National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, recruited volunteers to help build the app. 

Jungwoo Kim, a Korean Resource Center organizer, said he conceived of the app after distributing know-your-rights cards to Korean immigrants. According to the Korean Resource Center, one in seven Korean immigrants is in the U.S. illegally, but many are reluctant to come forward to discuss their situation, Kim said. 

"It's very hard for us to even talk to community leaders about this matter because it is very confidential. This is a very sensitive issue," he said. "Most of the people, even if they need know-your-rights training, they don't show up, because they don't want to take that risk."  

Zu Kim, a web developer and a board member with the local Korean American center, stepped up when he was approached to help create the app.

"I sent an email to my colleagues at work and, within a couple of days, I got within 20 to 30 volunteers," Zu Kim said. They developed the app for free. 

The app is simple and currently features five languages: Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and English. As more volunteer translators come on board, the app will be expanded to other languages. 

Yongho Kim, digital director for the Korean Resource Center, said as talk circulated about recent immigration enforcement sweeps that have led to hundreds of arrests, local Korean families grew worried about whether they could be deported.

"There are all kinds of reactions" within the Korean community, he said. "Permanent residents are uneasy about their green card status: is this safe, or do I need to become a citizen? And people who are in all kinds of status in between, in the process of applying for something ... they are being way more worried and cautious."

Asian immigrants make up about 14 percent of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., according to an analysis of 2009-2013 numbers by the Migration Policy Institute.

Jungwoo Kim said he hopes even those who are afraid to go public with their lack of legal residency will find the app helpful. 

An Android version can be downloaded now via Google Play. An iPhone version is due out next week. 

There are other apps that aim to assist immigrants who face deportation. They include Notifica, which allows users to notify their family members if they are arrested. RedadAlertas says it issues verified alerts about immigration raids.