Councilwoman Sandra Ung Visits Flushing International H.S.
By Ahnaf Chowdhury
In October, the new councilwoman for Flushing, Sandra Ung, visited FIHS to speak to Bridges students about her life, her career, her ideas for what she would do as councilwoman and the importance of voting. Sandra shared her experience growing up as an Asian immigrant in New York, her time in school, her career first as a lawyer, public servant, community advocate and as a special assistant of Congressman Grace Meng.
Sandra wants the government to work for her neighbors, the residents of District 20. She believes District 20 needs an advocate who embraces its diversity and understands the unique challenges many of our residents face. Specifically, she wants to help represent minorities and women, and help the immigrants who were left out of government because of lack of English.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood?
Sandra: When I was a child, my family fled the genocide in Cambodia and came to Flushing when I was 7 years old. Because of the language and cultural barriers, we struggled - it fell to me to help my parents navigate this new environment as I grew up.
Q: What was your journey to be a council woman like/ What sparked your interest to be a council woman?
Sandra: I became an attorney and worked at Sanctuary for Families in order to fight for victims of domestic violence. Since leaving Sanctuary, I’ve worked in government offices, helping constituents navigate the government system and representing their interests. I understand how to build coalitions to support working families and marginalized communities, and I’m passionate about working with community organizations, advocacy groups and organized labor. I’m running for City Council because I want to make government work for my neighbors, the residents of District 20. District 20 needs an advocate who embraces its diversity and understands the unique challenges many of our residents face. Social justice, advocacy, and activism aren’t new to me - I’ve devoted my life to it. It is the core of who I am and why I am running for office.
Q: What are some things that you are planning to do for Flushing after you become a councilwoman?
Sandra: I have seen the struggles of immigrants not speaking English and not being able to understand and do their work because of not getting translation. I want to empower the residents of District 20 regardless of their background. So, I’ll make sure to have more translators in a variety of languages available in hospitals, and other official places to help people. Also, I will secure more affordable housing for our seniors so that they can age in place. And I will fight to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to flourish by improving our schools.
Q:What are you going to do for students?
Sandra: I will build a center where students can come after school to get extra support for exams like regents and SAT and special needs children can get more help in coping up with their studies.
Q: Did you face any sort of microaggression/racism after coming to the states?
Sandra Ung: Yes, I did, however that didn’t bother me that much until one time when a man in the train suddenly started screaming at her and saying go back to your country.
Q: How did you feel after that?
Sandra: I felt really bad, I didn’t speak up. I felt so bad that no one stood up and said anything they were just watching and acting as bystanders.
Q. As you may the undocumented people are always scared of being caught, what would you do to help them? These people don’t even go to hospitals when they’re badly injured just because of getting caught.
Sandra: I will try my best to support them as much as possible. Spread information that the police won’t come and arrest them if they use the government facilities. Also help them have a better life helping them with legal procedures.
Q.There are many homeless people who are in need and some homeless people even harass others. What are you going to do about that?
Sandra: I will try to make places for homeless people and help them get better by getting help from rehabilitation. And whenever anyone is harassed they should report to the hotline number to get support because it’s not at all good to tolerate things like that and we also shouldn’t be bystanders even if we aren’t harassed we shouldn’t see and walk away but raise our voice.
Q. Lastly, is there something you would like to tell us to help us in the future?
Sandra: I would like to inform you all that voting is really important. It’s necessary that you guys choose the person you want to be represented by in the congress. It’s a very easy process. Spread this to your family and friends. If you are 18 and a citizen you can vote. And lastly, don't let things stop you from dreaming big. We are here in this country to achieve our dreams.