AAPIP Voices

Dreamers Leading


By: Catherine Eusebio, AAPIP Social Justice Fellow

There was a time when I just dreamed about the ability to support my family. Unless I could promote policy level change, the lack of legal immigration status would limit the quality of life we could achieve. However, revealing my status was perilous. Nearly two decades in America, my mother still keeps our suitcases in case we are deported. I knew that living in fear every day and lacking the freedom to choose the direction of my life was unacceptable.

Dream Summer was one avenue where I could reclaim my agency. It’s the only national effort, led by and for undocumented young people that aims to build a generation of leaders of an inclusive, progressive movement. Through Dream Summer, I had the opportunity to learn and grow as an intern at AAPIP for ten weeks.

I am not exaggerating when I say that summer was life-changing. I was attending Dream Summer’s opening retreat when President Obama announced the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). With DACA, qualifying undocumented immigrants could apply for work authorization and relief from the threat of deportation. Some of my peers in the room were the same ones leading bold campaigns and actions that moved the President to act.

With DACA on the horizon, Dream Summer was the perfect bridge to enter the work force. As an intern with AAPIP, I gained skills and had the necessary mentorship to develop as a professional. Investing in opportunities that assist immigrants to fully participate in society will have ripple effects for their family and posterity for generations to come.

This is why I’m thrilled that AAPIP is leading efforts to create more of these opportunities. AAPIP is engaging Asian American and Pacific Islander community organizations to support Dream Summer interns too. We’re close to reaching our goal of doubling the number of API participants.

But this is a historic opportunity for all of us make genuine immigration reform a tangible reality. I applaud the leadership of foundations like the Rosenberg Foundation  for increasing their investments and encouraging others to make this timely issue a priority. It’s exciting to witness other foundations like the James Irvine Foundation commit to supporting immigration reform as part of their democracy and civic engagement work.

This is the most strategic time to make such investments in people. I know that real change happens when community and philanthropy lift up the most impacted to lead.