Political News

DACA-protected Rhodes Scholar confident immigrants' contributions will be recognized

Posted November 23, 2018 11:33 a.m. EST

— A Rhodes Scholar who is protected by a program to shield undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children said Friday he is confident people will recognize the contributions made to the US by people like him.

Harvard student Jin Park is the first undocumented immigrant to win the coveted grant that allows a small handful of extremely accomplished postgraduate students to study at the University of Oxford.

Park has a Korean passport but doesn't have a US passport, and said he is consulting with lawyers to figure out how he will be able to return to the United States once he has traveled outside of the country to complete his scholarship at Oxford University in England.

Last year, the Trump administration said it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, punting the responsibility of finding a permanent fix to Congress. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling blocking the Trump administration from ending the Obama-era program, likely setting up a Supreme Court fight.

Park said after completing his scholarship, he hopes to come back to America and "work as a part of a public health department and to create evidence-based policy to improve the health and the outcomes of undocumented immigrants in America."

Park said it is "always a perpetual worry" that recipients under DACA will not be able to stay in the US. "But I'm confident that the contributions that I and other immigrants make to America, it's going to eventually prevail."

"I'm an American, and regardless of what my citizenship is, I'm always going to know that," Park said.

Park said he is consulting with lawyers, and said "one possibility is for us to bring a lawsuit in front of (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) to kind of bring back advance parole." Advance parole is a special permit that would allow a DACA recipient to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad. But since September 2017, the US government is no longer granting DACA recipients permission to travel abroad through advance parole, and any pending applications are no longer being processed.

"Immigrants feel that they are part of America," Park said, "and whether or not they have citizenship is a completely different question."

"Regardless of the occupant in the White House," Park said, "it's important to note that these broader questions -- who is American, who belongs, and who are we going to treat as members of America ... those questions are going to remain regardless of who's president and that's where we have to keep the focus."

"Undocumented immigrants are a part of this country," Park said. "We are American. We're just waiting for our country and our laws to catch up to that fact."