AAPIP Voices

Asian American, Undocumented and Unafraid


By Cynthia Choi, Deputy Director, AAPIP

I first met Catherine Eusebio nearly a year ago when she spoke at an AAPIP convening in September 2011 which highlighted Asian American undocumented students, also known as DREAMers, named for the DREAM Act – Federal legislation which would offer a path to legalization for certain undocumented immigrants who’ve grown up in the U.S., graduate from a U.S. high school, and attend college or join the military. At that convening, alongside fellow DREAM students Ju Hong and David Cho, she spoke eloquently about her personal journey from being afraid, ashamed and angry, to becoming a powerful leader in the immigrant youth movement.

Through Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center, I learned about Dream Summer, a national 10 week internship for DREAM Act student leaders across the country where they are placed in social justice and labor organizations, gaining invaluable experience, leadership skills and organizing knowledge. I was disappointed to discover, however, that not many AAPI organizations participated in the first year of the program and there were very few AAPI placements. Especially given that there are reportedly 100,000 AAPI youth who have been brought to this country as children and yet this is not widely known.

AAPIP is proud to be participating in Dream Summer 2012 and working with our funding partners like The Rosenberg Foundation to increase investments in our youth leaders and in the future of our country. We are fortunate to be hosting Catherine Eusebio and Steve Li -DREAMers who have changed the course of history staging civil disobedience actions across the country and with little to no resources. The recent announcement by President Obama also known as “deferred action”, which allows certain individuals to remain in the country temporarily pending further legislative or administrative action and to obtain temporary work authorization, offers some protection against being deported albeit temporary. Still it was a hard won victory by the DREAMers.

Philanthropy has an important role in supporting the work and the efforts of brave students like Steve and Catherine. Their willingness to step forward with their experience and gifts challenges communities and philanthropy alike to realize the democracy that they are both an important part of contributing to and shaping. At AAPIP we look forward to continuing to support the work of all DREAMers as they pursue their goals, and to having more philanthropic and community partners join us in that commitment.