Note: certain terms with asterisk are defined at the bottom!
Work has begun! The title to this blog post is one of the very first questions I asked myself this week. My first assignment as an intern at Scholarships A-Z* was to conduct research on the subject “undocumented APA students and DACA*” and help my supervisor Matt draft an article for a newsletter.
Whenever I thought of the contemporary immigration debate, I had always connected the issue to the Latino immigrant population in the U.S. The combination of APA population and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) seemed rather foreign, as I had never linked immigration legislature like DACA to APAs.
Thus I quickly was able to narrow the scope of the research based on my question, “Why are APAs often, if not always, excluded from DACA conversations in the media?”
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provided a straightforward answer – that the great majority of DACA recipients are Latino population. Given that only 3.71 % of the DACA recipients thus far come from Asian countries, the media’s spotlight on the Latino population, especially Mexicans who comprise of 79.1% of the DACA recipients thus far, made absolute sense.
Nonetheless, such numerical answer did not satisfy me and I carried on research. At one point, I encountered two very similar documentary films titled “The Dream is Now” and “A Dream A Part”. The former film featured four undocumented Mexican students’ and one undocumented Albanian student’s life stories which have been directly affected by the broken immigration system. The latter portrayed similar stories, except that the subjects were five undocumented students from Asian and Pacific Island nations. Despite the similarities that all undocumented studies have faced painful obstacles and have been fighting for the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform, I found myself a lot less sympathetic towards the undocumented APA students.
I was startled at my apathy; if anything, I thought I would be more sympathetic towards the latter film because I am Asian American. Perhaps, my privileged upbringings as a U.S. citizen made it difficult to relate to the five undocumented APA students. Perhaps, my lack of awareness of undocumented APA students in American society caused indifference. In the end, I was able to deduce the cause of my reaction to one primary root, the “Model Minority Myth”.
The Model Minority Myth is a socially constructed (mis)perception that a specific minority group, especially APA population in the U.S., is more successful than the population average regarding their income, education, family stability, and health. However, I was able to debunk this myth. Contrary to the myth that APA population is heavily concentrated in selective universities, I discovered that the largest concentration of APA students is in community colleges. Furthermore, 35 to 40% of the South Eastern Asian population in the U.S. does not finish high school. Even when APAs achieve a certain degree of higher education, the majority works in the labor market’s secondary sector and when they do work in the primary sector, they are often located in the lower tier-levels. Given the APA majority’s social positions, their wages are low. In addition, APAs lacks presence in higher-level administration, management, and executive positions.
Although I initially doubted the relevance of this research, I am extremely glad to have been working on this because I now have much greater awareness about undocumented APA population in the U.S. This research has triggered multiple thoughts I had never made.
I realize that I dislike the aggregation of the Asian and Pacific Islander population. Not only are the two groups extremely diverse, but also exist diversity of cultures within the Asian and Pacific Islander group, respectively. As I continue researching, I keep wondering if there is anyway to disaggregate APA into two separate groups; how to spread awareness that vast discrepancies exist within different ethnic groups among Asians and Pacific Islanders; and thus finally how to include “marginalized” undocumented immigrant population in conversations about immigration reform in the news media.
Week 1 of work has surely comprised of unexpected research and intellectual stimulations!
*Scholarships A-Z is a non-profit organization that strives to “provide resources and scholarships to students, families, and educators…to make higher education accessible to all regardless of immigration status.”
*Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) is a two-year temporary relief from deportation given to undocumented immigrants who meet eligibility requirements, for instance, of having achieved a certain degree of education or having served military time in the U.S. Therefore, DACA has provided a “legally present” residency and temporary employment authorization in the U.S.