Tag Archives: daca

Undocumented Student Shares Her Story

Yuki is an undocumented student living in Seattle, Washington. For 21 Progress staff and their supporters, Yuki shares what it’s like being an undocumented student living in America.

Click below to hear Yuki speak about her experience.

With the support of 21 Progress, Fearless Asians for Immigration Reform (FAIR!), undocumented Asians and Pacific Islander and their allies work together to bring visibility and increased resources to the undocumented API community.

If you or someone you know is undocumented, get screened for DACA today by calling (206) 578-1255. All communication of private, safe, and confidential.

To learn more about FAIR! go to www.ItShouldBeFAIR.com

Special Thanks: This video was made possible by the amazing work of 21 Progress Volunteer, Kai Bates, and of course, our old friend, Yuki Suren.

Internship Opportunity: Dream Builder Work Study Intern

21 Progress is seeking a dedicated college student to join our team as a Work Study Intern for the Build Your Dream Program. This is a paid part-time internship, and an opportunity to learn about social justice nonprofit leadership while gaining direct experience engaging the undocumented community. This position requires fluency in Spanish.

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To learn more about the position and apply, click here.

For questions or comments, please email Lexi at support@21progress.org.

The Need Does Exist! Undocumented Asians and Pacific Islanders want DACA

A few weeks ago, I called attention to the need for family and friends of undocumented Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) to bravely address and problem solve issues related to legal status. The article was essentially a call for those who are not affected to step up and take action. After writing the piece, I kept thinking about the complacency I continued to experience and noticed a common assumption being made: the undocumented API community is deeply disinterested in applying to government programs regardless of benefits, and therefore efforts to outreach are not worth the investment.

As I think about this I can’t help but wonder if we are too quickly buying into the common stereotype that APIs are reluctant to enroll into or receive help from government programs. Furthermore, has this stereotype provided us with an easy excuse and allowed us to be complacent?

After all, when faced with a challenging task, such as addressing a deeply tabooed issue, it’s easier to label it impossible and disengage. By excusing ourselves from the call to action, we remain oblivious to the real needs of the API community.

However, as I pointed out in a pervious post, the undocumented API community, like other vulnerable populations, will utilize services when either the needs or the incentive becomes great enough. After our latest efforts, I’m even more certain that this is true.

From the start, the Fearless Asians for Immigration Reform’s campaign efforts were focused on conducting trainings, increasing public awareness, and bridging services and support for undocumented APIs. This generated modest interest from undocumented APIs seeking immigration assistance. Then about a month ago, Fearless Asian’s work dove deeply into ethnic media advertising, and launched the It Should Be Fair Scholarship, coincidentally articles about the work were published in the International Examiner and the Seattle Chinese Post. Shortly afterward, we started to see an influx of inquiries from the API community. In the last 6 weeks, the campaign has received over 80 inquiries about issues and concerns related to immigration, has screened over 50 undocumented APIs for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Deferred Action for Parent Accountability (DAPA), two federal programs that would provide certain undocumented individuals with a social security number, protection from deportation, a work permit, and other benefits.

Currently, Fearless Asians is assisting 15 API youth and young adults with their DACA applications, has helped 27 DAPA eligible APIs prepare for the proposed program, and referred about 12 non DACA or DAPA eligible APIs to partnering organizations (such as NWIRP and API Chaya) to see if they qualify for other programs or benefits. 97% of the APIs we encountered had no idea the DACA or DAPA program even existed, furthermore they were shocked to learn that the DACA program had been around for 3 years. Many expressed disbelief, many asked about risk, and all were overwhelmingly grateful for not only the program but also the support. To this day, not one of the undocumented APIs we have encountered chose not to apply to the DACA program due to it’s connection to the federal government.

The outpour from the API community made it clear: a great need exists, and people wanted to apply to the program regardless of potential risk involved. Additionally, the lack of information and awareness about DACA is great, preventing thousands of undocumented APIs from applying to the program.

Today, I’m increasingly certain that the problem isn’t that undocumented APIs are disinterest in the DACA program. Rather, as service providers, friends, family, or allies to the undocumented community, we need to stop assuming what the community wants or is willing to do. Instead, we need to provide them with options and let them decide what’s best. Anything short of this, is an injustice to the community.

To connect someone you know with resources for undocumented APIs, contact Fearless Asians today, or visit www.itshouldbefair.com to learn more. Allies, take action now and submit a pledge!

Notes From The Field: Outreaching To A Hidden Community

Outreach has always been natural to me. I love learning about other people, discovering their needs, their stories, and connecting them to a larger movement or body of work in the community. As the Co-Chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum – Seattle Chapter and long time grassroots activist, I’ve had plenty of opportunity and experience outreaching into the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community.

In my most recent position as the creator and Campaign Director of Fearless Asians for Immigration Reform (FAIR!), a Seattle-based project that addresses the lack of services and support for undocumented APIs who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). I have learned that outreaching to a community in hiding is like an up-mountain battle, with small wins and beautiful views but challenging throughout the way.

In the early stages of the work I found a common pattern. That even with the numerous resources I offer through the FAIR! campaign (i.e., access to free immigration attorneys, screenings, scholarships, financial assistance, interpreters, and social support), APIs were still reluctant to pass on our info or services to those who needed it. This was consistent regardless of the positive feedback I would receive, such as, “Wow! I can’t believe there is such a great a program and resource available” or “my (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt) really needs this kind of support.”

This was also consistent regardless of my various follow-up methods, which started with a polite and respectful request, “please pass my card and flyer along to your (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt).” This method produced zero inquiries (unsurprisingly).

I then tried a stronger approach, “I’m glad this resource is going to be useful to your (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt)! Could you provide me with their name and contact info so that I can reach out to them?” I reassured them that I was well intentioned and not looking to deport anyone. But this method, produced concerned looks, uneasiness, and the slow but steady backing away (also, unsurprisingly).

After numerous similar encounters, I noticed something significant. The people I was talking to recognized that they have just shared a deep family secret. For many, this secret was not supposed to be as widely spread. And while this family secret might be well known, it was rarely discussed. Therefore, the idea of bringing a stranger into this secret world would be nothing less than sabotage to their family.

So once again, my outreach methods evolved. Now when I’m within one degree of separation I ask folks for permission to contact them and follow-up about how I can help their (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt).  This method has been far more successful, with nearly 95% of my requests being granted.

I thought I had found the solution! This was going to be it! I now was within a 1 degree separation of helping an undocumented API person and had the follow-up contact info I needed. Equipped with the right information, I made the follow-up phone calls, “Hello, this is Marissa Vichayapai, Director of the FAIR! Campaign. It was really nice talking to you about your (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt), who is undocumented. I just wanted to follow-up and see how I can help him/her/them.”

The responses I received were mixed.

There were those who really were willing to put themselves out there and advocate for their (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt). But overwhelmingly I received responses from those who wanted to advocate but couldn’t get past the initial barriers. From their anecdotes I heard,

“I’m not sure when I’ll see my (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt) again, but when I do I’ll try to mention it.”


“I’ll try to bring it up to my (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt), but I’m not sure.”


“There is no way my (friend/cousin/neighbor/aunt) will want to talk about the issue, sorry.”

This leaves me to wonder, how do I activate these intermediary people? Those who are within one degree of separation from an undocumented API person, how do I get them to bridge the gap? When I am so, so close… but still so, so far. I’m still searching for the right answer.  For those allies who have experience and advice about how to reach hidden communities, please share your tips, techniques, and insights. And for others who are in a similar situation- I have so much gratitude and appreciation for the work you do. Please share your experience and inspirations.