LOS ANGELES (June 17, 2013) — Little more than one year ago on June 15, 2012, undocumented young people known as “DREAMers” won an important victory for immigrant communities.
Responding to a campaign led by DREAMers for the right to dream and contribute their full talents to the country they call home, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that certain young people who came to the United States as children and meet other key criteria may be eligible to receive deferred action.
Formally known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program provides relief from deportation and a work permit for two years to certain eligible undocumented youth, with the opportunity for renewal.
After the announcement of the DACA program, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups – Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (of which the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) is a member), Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) – joined together to form the “AAPI DACA Collaborative” in recognition of the unique needs and concerns of the AAPI DACA-eligible youth across the country.
Together, the AAPI DACA Collaborative has reached an overwhelming number of AAPI youth and their families, providing assistance in Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Chinese, Thai, and multiple South Asian languages, as well as Spanish and English. With assistance from the collaborative, thousands of young people have obtained deferred action and the freedom to pursue new opportunities in their lives.
Bupendra Ram, of Los Angeles, said, “Although being DACAmented does not provide me with a path to citizenship, this is the first time I have been able to live without fear of being separated from my family and friends. For the first time, I have been able to openly express my queer identity in the workplace without fear of finding another job if I was to lose the current one. Being DACAmented has allowed me to take a step toward being whole – undocumented, queer, and South Asian.”
Mustafa Bhuiyan, a New York resident and member of RAISE, AALDEF’s undocumented Asian youth group, said, “AALDEF’s help in getting me DACA is so important for my career. After I received DACA, I got a better job and am being paid the correct wage I deserve as a restaurant worker. DACA will help me to be financially stable so I can start attending college.”
Jewell, a Filipina DREAMer from Los Angeles and a member of ASPIRE LA, an undocumented Asian youth group supported by APALC, commented, “DACA has opened more avenues for me, and because of this I have been empowered to make more decisions for myself.”
Sung Lee, a freshman at California State Northridge expressed, “After obtaining DACA, I was finally able to do simple tasks like driving my little sister to school, and work at the local coffee shop. I don’t feel afraid anymore.”
While DACA is an important step toward enabling undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, it is not available for everyone – highlighting the need to organize and mobilize for common-sense immigration reform. A Filipino individual who attended an AALDEF DACA legal clinic said, “I came to the U.S. after I turned 16, so I’m disqualified from receiving DACA. Through community organizing, I have learned that DACA is a small step on the long road in fixing the broken immigration system. DACA left [out] many of us and our families, [leaving us] in fear of deportation, racial profiling, and worker exploitation. I hope immigration reform will fix these problems.”
The Asian Pacific American Legal Center continues to provide free DACA assistance to eligible youth and encourages potential applicants to apply now. With immigration reform currently being considered by the U.S. Congress, there may be a streamlined path to citizenship for those individuals who have obtained DACA. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that Congress will actually pass immigration reform legislation, so DACA-eligible youth are encouraged to apply for DACA and receive the benefits that come with it – safety from deportation and the opportunity to work legally.
For more information, APALC operates the following toll-free hotlines that can be accessed anywhere in the United States:
• English: (888) 349-9695
• Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese): (800) 520-2356
• Khmer: (800) 867-3126
• Korean: (800) 867-3640
• Thai: (800) 914-9583
• Vietnamese: (800) 267-7395
The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, is the nation’s largest Asian American legal and civil rights organization and serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year. Founded in 1983, APALC advocates for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.
Through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, leadership development and capacity building, APALC seeks to serve the most vulnerable members of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities while also building a strong Asian American and NHPI voice for civil rights and social justice.
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