The future is uncertain for thousands of undocumented immigrants working and living in the U.S. under a federal program called DACA.
President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA was created by an executive order under President Obama in 2012. It grants reprieve to undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as children and allows them to legally work here for a 2-year period.
Diana Wong is a DACA recipient who currently works as an outreach coordinator with the Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco. She speaks Cantonese, Spanish, and English. Those skills are crucial in her work at the non-profit organization as she helps immigrant and low-income families manage their finances.
“Also because of my experience as a DACA recipient, I try to focus on the DACA community,” Wong said.
The UC Santa Cruz graduate loves her job and feels like she’s come full circle. Wong was born in Mexico to Chinese immigrant parents.
“I came to the U.S. when I was five and I applied to the program when it first came out in 2012,” she said. “Being able to work and get that social security number… it was amazing.”
Many of Wong’s peers are fearful about the DACA program’s possible repeal under Trump. A repeal would affect hundreds of thousands of people in the program and the companies that employ them.
MAF Director of Programs and Engagement Mohan Kanungo said believed those who oppose the program have a limited understanding of the value of DACA recipients.
“These are incredibly talented people who have tremendous skills, education, and value,” Kanungo said. “We wouldn't be able to find someone else to fill that job if we didn't have someone like Diana here.”
He went on to say he is concerned about the status of the federal program.
“There are very few people who can do this kind of work and there’s no one else I’d rather have on my team than Diana and the other DREAMers we’ve had here who have been DACA recipients,” he added.
Wong knows some of her DACA recipient friends are sacred.
“They've said, 'We've gone this far, what do we do now? Do we go back in the shadows?’ But strangely for me, I feel a hopeful resistance.”
She plans to fight to protect the program and change the perception that immigrants are criminals.
“What's the different between immigrants and Americans besides a piece of paper,” Wong said. “They still want to work hard, provide for their families.”
Since the launch of DACA in 2012, the program has helped more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants work in the U.S. Obama has urged Trump to carefully think about endearing the status of DACA recipients.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said they continue to process both initial and renewal DACA requests.