Chinese youth shun immigration amnesty

Updated: 2015-02-11 11:34

By Lian Zi in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Undocumented Chinese immigrants appear to be the least interested in President Obama's reprieve for young undocumented immigrants in the US, as their application rate is much lower than their counterparts, particularly Latinos, who flocked to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

About 15,000 Chinese immigrants in the US were eligible for the DACA program that started in 2012. But as of 2014, less than 1,100 have applied, according to Summer Chiang, Chinese media coordinator at New America Media, which organizes media advisory events with Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE), a San Francisco-based non-profit that helps undocumented Asian immigrants.

Nationwide, Chinese immigrants were the ninth largest population of DACA-eligible immigrants. But they applied for the program at such low rates that they were not included in the list of top 25 applying communities, Chiang said.

Asian community advocates have ramped up outreach efforts to as many undocumented Chinese immigrants as possible and tried to educate the Chinese community about the benefits of applying for DACA, said Amy Y, a representative of ASPIRE.

DACA offers undocumented immigrants two years of amnesty. It also provides temporary legal status, Social Security Numbers and employment authorization, said Amy Lin.

Obama has announced that the new DACA program that will go into effect on Feb 18, no longer has an age cap, Lin added, which means no matter how old you are right now, you can get approved by DACA if you came to the US before the age of 16, and have continuously lived here since January 2010.

Lin, 23, currently a graduate student at a university in California, shared her personal experience with China Daily.

"I came to the United States from Taiwan on a tourist visa when I was only 12. Now I have received my work authorization after applying for DACA in 2012," she said, mentioning that she heard about ASPIRE when she applied for DACA.

"Being able to get a work permit and work legally in the United States, I am currently working as a teaching assistant at my school, which substantially alleviates the financial burden that I suffered for a long time," she said, adding that having a SSN was a prerequisite for applying for jobs at her school.

"My salary right now is much higher than my former under-the-table jobs that had no benefits," she said.

Lin said she wants to help other undocumented immigrants like her in the Chinese community of the San Francisco Bay Area.

There are many reasons why undocumented Chinese immigrants don't apply for DACA, she said.

Chinese people often feel shame and embarrassment at not having legal status. "People just don't want to share information about their immigration status or how they came to the US if they are undocumented," she said.

Also, potential applicants face pressure from other family members. "Their parents who are not eligible to apply for DACA have concerns that they might be at greater risk for deportation if their children fill out the application," said Lin.

"Many undocumented people are still living in fear, and one of the first things we need to do is lift their concerns," said Lin, noting that the $465 application fee for DACA is also a financial burden for some potential applicants.

Most importantly, the low degree of visibility of the DACA program in the Chinese-speaking media makes it difficult to educate the target undocumented immigrants, she added.

"We would like to have a conversation with Chinese media in the San Francisco Bay Area about why Chinese immigrants have the lowest enrollment rates and explore what journalists can do to increase the awareness of DACA and President Obama's Executive Order for people eligible for DACA," said Chiang.