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File Photo

Every Filipino I know, including myself, has someone in our extended family who is a “TNT,” a “tago ng tago” (translated as hide and hide), or an undocumented fellow immigrant. I am also hoping that this is true with other Asian Pacific Islander communities. Why? Because we need to let them know that their kids can stay legally in the United States, be able to work legally, and perhaps, even get college tuition assistance.

Frustrated with the lack of congressional immigration reform, President Barack Obama instructed the Homeland Security Department to delay deporting undocumented children as a humanitarian act. The Migration Policy Institute estimated that there are 1.76 million undocumented children in the United States, with 40,000 living in Washington State, including 3,000 Asian Pacific Islanders.

This initiative is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It would offer a two year reprieve from deportation, which is renewable, and work authorization for those who:

1) entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visa and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, or have turned 15 since that date,
2) entered the United States before the age of 16,
3) lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007,
4) is in school, graduated from high school, or earned a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. armed forces, including the Coast Guard, and
5) have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors; or otherwise pose a threat to public safety or national security.

“We have a program that will help the undocumented children apply for DACA by loaning them, interest-free, the $465 application fee and help them with college and job readiness,” said Sharon Maeda, executive director of 21 Progress, a non-profit that works for equity & justice. “To date, we have served 150 DACA applicants. There’s an estimated 3,000 API undocumented youth in our state. There must be a way to get the word out to our Asian Pacific Islander community.”

What a shame if our family members and fellow countrymen can’t access DACA because they did not know, particularly since the Democratic majority Washington House and Republican majority Senate just passed the Dream Act and the Real Hope Act respectively to give college tuition assistance to our undocumented youth. And, HB 1079 has already granted undocumented students in Washington in-state college tuition rates which are about one-third the out-of-state college tuition rate.

To get DACA financial assistance and training, email [email protected] or call (206) 829-8482. Tagalog interpreters can be available upon request. DACA applicants should also get free legal consultation by contacting 21 PROGRESS’ partner organization, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) at: 206-587-4009 or 206-957-8618.

Maria Batayola is a long time community activist and civil rights leader. She currently serves as President of FAPAGOW (Filipino American Political Action Group of Washington).

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