As a member of Tahirih’s Communications Team, Rachel Pak plays a significant role in shifting narratives about immigrant communities and survivors of violence, and in meaningfully engaging with advocates, supporters, and the public. As Tahirih’s Media Relations Associate, Rachel specifically works with Tahirih’s experts to provide essential information to reporters covering immigration, forced marriage, gender-based violence, and other topics, helping to influence public discourse on these important areas.
In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), Rachel offers her reflections on the importance of advocating for immigrant survivors by challenging stigmas and pushing back against harmful narratives around immigrant communities. As a Korean American and a second-generation immigrant, Rachel is honored to be a part of such a vibrant community that has helped shape her into becoming the person she is today.
“My heritage has meant everything. It impacted how I saw myself growing up and how others saw me, in a place where most people did not look like me. As I grew older and learned more about the individual experiences of my grandparents and parents who moved to the U.S., I gained an immense appreciation for their sacrifices to provide my sister and me a better life. Then as I learned more about the collective experiences of Asian Americans and the sacrifices of advocates to challenge racist policies and fight for equal rights, I developed a sense of pride to be part of that heritage and tradition.”
Rachel was first connected to Tahirih as an intern in our Forced Marriage Initiative (FMI) in 2014. This experience motivated Rachel to better understand the broken immigration system and the context of Northern Triangle-U.S. migration. Through a fellowship with Princeton in Latin America, Rachel moved to Guatemala to work in her first communications role with a community development nonprofit called Pueblo a Pueblo. Rachel later moved to Guatemala City to lead communications at a growing startup that works with farmers in Guatemala’s major corn producing regions.
“Living and working in Guatemala, where the U.S. is culpable in the oppression of indigenous and other marginalized groups, I wanted to highlight the diverse, rich stories that all communities have to tell – about themselves, their families, their towns, and their country.”
The things she saw, learned, and felt during this time confirmed Rachel’s passion to amplify voices of historically marginalized communities. Soon after Rachel returned to the U.S., she rejoined Tahirih as a communications associate.
“Returning to Tahirih was a way to connect my upbringing, personal motivations, and work experiences all together.”
As Tahirih’s Media Relations Associate, Rachel is constantly keeping up to date with the rapidly changing media and policy landscape. Her role is to increase the organization’s visibility among media and position Tahirih as a leader on issues related to immigration and gender-based violence.
“On any given day, I may be triaging a rapid response plan to address a harmful new immigration policy, so that the public knows how it will significantly impact Tahirih clients and survivors of violence. Or I may be working with our team to develop a multi-channel campaign plan to denounce a bad policy or advocate for stronger protections on behalf of our clients.”
Rachel feels fortunate to work with some of the best colleagues – who carry on in their advocacy work, despite the many obstacles that continue to mount in securing legal protections for immigrants and survivors.
“I’m inspired by their grit, heart, and the good dose of humor that they bring to roll with the punches.”
However, during this pandemic, the onrush of anti-immigrant policies has never been so pervasive. Working for Tahirih can be challenging as Rachel witnesses the growing wall of policies that continue to strip protections from immigrant survivors.
But, Rachel refuses to feel disheartened as she believes in Tahirih’s work to overcome such a challenging time. She knows that the visibility that Tahirih brings to these issues provides an opportunity to discuss injustice and its impact on immigrant survivors fleeing violence.
“I’m encouraged by the whole Tahirih team—a mix of survivors, children of immigrants, allies, former clients who have become vocal advocates to speak out against harmful policies. Everyone is working together to ensure that immigrant survivors are able to access their right to safety and protection.”