Kim*, a 20-year-old Chinese American woman, wants to pursue a career in financial planning.
She is a business major at a local Cal State university. After graduation, Kim plans to pursue an M.B.A. But there may a significant obstacle to attaining her dream career: She is an undocumented immigrant.
In August 2012, she came to APALC for legal help in applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – a temporary status that allows some undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits and to be safe from deportation for a two-year period.
A month later, she was notified that she was granted DACA status, and was one of the first few applicants nationwide to receive the approval.
“I am most excited I can work and get an internship on my resume,” said Kim, who works as private math tutor. “But two years go by fast. There is so much uncertainty right now. I’m hoping something else more permanent will come up before the two years are over.”
Kim came to this country when she was 10 years old, along with her mother.
“I didn’t realize what (being undocumented) really meant until I was in high school and couldn’t get a license,” she said. “All of my friends got cars and I couldn’t drive. It was embarrassing.”
She hardly told anyone about her status. She was afraid she would be deported. But she did tell a professor at her college – who helped put her in touch with an individual who told her about how APALC provides free legal help to immigrants who want to apply for DACA.
Kim said the APALC attorney assigned to her case put her at ease.
“She was so nice and welcoming, and made me feel confident and secure," Kim said. “I felt I could trust her to take care of my case.”
She encouraged other undocumented immigrants to come forward and apply for DACA, but also to come out of the shadows and share their stories. She mentioned that her mother is happy that Kim received the approval.
“While you have the chance, apply now,” she said. “At least you can work now. There is no reason not to apply. It’s worth it for the peace of mind.”
She also said European and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrants should come forward and share their stories.
“If there were more white and Asian faces associated with undocumented immigration, I think the debate would change a bit,” she said. “We need to see more Asian faces.”
For undocumented youth who need free legal help, APALC is hosting weekly workshops to assist individuals with completing their applications. APALC also is providing free direct representation for complex cases. To schedule an appointment, call one of our in-language hotlines or email [email protected].
For undocumented Asian American youth interested in connecting to other AAPI DREAMers, contact APALC Immigrant Rights Consultant Anthony Ng at [email protected].
* Kim is a pseudonym.