By: Charles Sanchez, Dream Summer Intern
My mom left college to become a domestic worker. The scarce employment opportunities in the Philippines forced her to leave her homeland to find work in Hong Kong and eventually Canada. By good fortune or fate, she met my father, a migrant fleeing civil war in El Salvador.
After a brief visit to the U.S. to say final good-byes to a dying relative, my tri-national family faced a dilemma at the U.S.-Canadian border. Either we could stay in the U.S. together as a family of undocumented immigrants or we could be deported to three different countries: my father to El Salvador, my mother to the Philippines, and my sister and myself to Canada. We chose to stay as a family.
Since then, Oakland has been my home. It has been so kindergarten through community college in Oakland’s public schools.
But in my final years of high school, I discovered my undocumented status — and with that, I discovered that I could not access many of the opportunities and resources that were available to my peers. In particular, I couldn’t immediately move on to college. I thought it was impossible without a Social Security Number or access to financial aid.
Without a support system and social network, undocumented students all over the U.S. are challenged with the lack the information and resources needed to participate and contribute fully to society.
This year, I am one of 17 interns participating in the very first API cohort of the Internship Program. AAPIP partnered with the UCLA Labor Center to provide a unique space for API undocumented young adults and allies to build relationships, develop professional skills, and amplify the voices of the API immigrant community for fair and just immigration policies. Through AAPIP’s work, the amount of API interns in the program more than tripled!
We now have a robust and diverse community to lean on. Our 17 interns come from Taiwan, Cambodia, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam, and India. Throughout the summer, they’ve learned tremendously from organizations in the API community such as NQAPIA, APALA, APAIT Health Center, Thai Health and Information Services, OCAPICA, Proyecto Pastoral, Asian Americans Advancing Justice LA, API Equality-LA, Khmer Girls in Action, UC Berkeley Labor Center, and UCLA Labor Center.
And this community building effort is as timely and needed as ever. As Congress is ripe to debate the legislative provisions of comprehensive immigration reform, the time is now for young leaders to fight for a pathway to citizenship that includes all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
I am honored to intern with AAPIP and commend their dedication to increasing opportunities through the API DREAM Summer program. As my internship comes to a close, I am pleased to say that I have grown significantly as a leader and young professional. This fall, I am transferring to UCLA as an Economics major knowing that I have a community supporting me.
Thank you and congratulations AAPIP and its many partners for a successful summer.