Undocumented immigrants in the US feel like "political pawns" in Trump’s agenda

The face of undocumented immigrants in the United States is largely Latino. But an estimated 1.7 million of them are from Asia. They now face an uncertain future as the DACA program is threatened.

Senin, 25 Sep 2017 10:00 WIB

Demonstrators at Trump tower New York, protest the President's attempt to rescind DACA. (Photo: Anta

Demonstrators at Trump tower New York, protest the President's attempt to rescind DACA. (Photo: Antara)

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The face of undocumented immigrants in the United States is largely Latino. But an estimated 1.7 million of them are from Asia.

Under President Obama, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children were offered an amnesty, granting them temporary legal rights to work, go to school - and even serve in the military, under a program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

The program allowed young undocumented migrants to come out of the shadows. But now, as the Trump administration sends mixed signals about their futures, they’re more vulnerable than ever. 

Lena Nozizwe reports from Los Angeles, California.

In a sea of jeans and t-shirts, 26-year old Marcella stands out in her white lab jacket. 

She is one hundreds of protesters marching near downtown Los Angeles, California, in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals--better known as DACA.

Dozens of protests have sprung up around the United States, after the Trump Administration announced early in September that it would rescind DACA, the program that gives temporary legal status to some 800,000 young men and women who were brought to the United States when they were children. 

Most attention is focused on Latinos and Latinas. 

But Asians are the fastest growing group of undocumented immigrants in the United States. 

One in every seven Asian immigrants in the US is undocumented, according to research conducted by AAPI Data, a research institute focused on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Marcella, who asked us to use only her first name in order to protect her identity, came to the U.S. with her family from China at the age of 12.

Five years ago, at the age of 21, Marcella became what's known as DACAmented. 

The change in her immigration status gave her legal status in the States for the first time, and immediately opened up opportunities for work and school. It gave her the chance to build a life here.

And it helps explain why she is wearing a white lab coat in a sea of jeans and t-shirts at the pro- DACA protest.

"I've been able to accomplish a lot things. I've been able to become a medical student on my road to becoming a doctor,” she told me.

Marcella isn’t the only one aiming high and studying hard.  

In the largest study of DACA recipients, the progressive think tank Center for American Progress found that 97% of those surveyed are either working or in school.

Since becoming president, even Donald Trump – who campaigned on a hard line anti-immigration platform-  has described the DACAmented as "incredible."

But Donald Trump the presidential candidate didn't love DACA kids back in June 2015, when he promised to scrap measures that former president Barack Obama introduced to protect them.

Trump has been pushing Congress – via twitter – to legislate on the matter.

And then, last week, Trump met with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to make a deal. The potential compromise has angered both sides. 

But at his point it’s just talk and tweets. No new legislation has been proposed, let alone approved.

Marcella and other DACA kids say they feel like political pawns.

"It's like going back and forth every day. It's like one day you rest easy and the next day you never know what is going to happen," Marcella said from the sidelines of the protest.

In signing up for DACA, young people provided information about their whereabouts that many fear makes them more vulnerable targets of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, if DACA ends.

Back at the protest, in her white lab coat, Marcella carries sign that reads "An Undocumented *slash* DACA Student May Save Your Life One Day."

Marcella’s determined to march forward in protest---and with her life-- despite fears of deportation. 

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