HomeBlogsA Dreamer’s Story: What DACA Means to One Korean American Woman

A Dreamer’s Story: What DACA Means to One Korean American Woman

immigration reform protest sign

By Brittney Le
AsAmNews Staff Writer

With the Trump Administration’s official rescinding of DACA Tuesday, DACA recipients are left with limited options. I recently spoke to a DACA recipient and Dreamer whose family had immigrated to the United States from Korea when she was only 5 years old. She currently attends a public university in California, but now the White House’s decision can ultimately change her future. It likewise will affect the future of around 800,000 others, members of society who are not any less American than any citizen.

It’s not so easy for these people to come into the U.S. in the first place; it’s a decision many have made in order to provide for their families. Some families initially come to the United States legally, but then overstay their visas.

“We came because my Dad’s company in Korea needed a representative to stay in the States,” a Korean American dreamer told AsAmNews. “This was hard for my parents because they knew that this meant that they had to leave everyone they knew, everything that they had in Korea and start a new life with young kids at a place that they’ve never been to.”

A few years after arriving in America, her family applied for their green cards. “I remember going to the interview and being nervous. I remember my parents were nervous too,” she said. “We didn’t get our green cards which left us without a status. There were hundreds of things my parents were worried about. One of the options we had was to go back to Korea, and I still don’t really know why we didn’t go back.”

Her father’s work visa had expired, effectively making her family undocumented. But just because they chose to stay, it doesn’t mean she aspired to be any less American than other students.

“I wonder what made my parents trust the American Immigration system to eventually take care of us,” she speculated. “They saw something in America; they believed in their American Dream, they believed in the people of America and I’m really glad they did because I now attend a great university because of them.” She now attends a top-ranked California university while working in an on-campus lab contributing to cancer research.

For her, DACA meant a life where she and her family could focus on being American. DACA was founded in 2012 by the Obama administration; it permitted those who entered the country as minors who are undocumented to receive renewable deferrals from deportation and to get work permits. The DREAM Act, which would have offered undocumented people who arrived as minors (Dreamers) the chance of permanent legal residency, has still not been passed to this day since it was introduced in 2001 – what DACA did was give these Dreamers a chance.

“When DACA was approved, my parents were relieved because it was like their American Dream wasn’t just a dream anymore but a reality,” she said. “I got to apply to college without worrying whether or not I would get financial aid. I was able to obtain a driver’s license. I was able to live almost normally.”

She didn’t even know of her undocumented status until she was a sophomore in high school. “I always knew that I was different, but I thought our family was a special case because I so distinctly remember going to the interview for our green cards,” she recalled. “DACA made a lot of things possible, and we were able to dream even bigger as a family.”

Prior to Tuesday this Korean American Dreamer had been very worried about the outcome of DACA, but she still held hope: “I know that not everyone feels the same way that Trump does about families like mine,” she said. “I find comfort in the fact that there are so many people who are willing to fight for people like me even if they don’t know us. I’m thankful that people care and want to create change.”

“But, again I’m still worried. I worry for those whose DACA statuses will expire sooner than others. What they will have to face. What I will have to face. I worry for my future plans,” she stated. “I think about different options and forget that I actually have passions that I could pursue. I forget that I still live in a place called America ‘the land of the free.’ I forget this because sometimes I feel like I don’t have access to this freedom that my neighbors do have access to.”

Barack Obama was unsurprisingly vocal about Tuesday’s results on Facebook: “To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong,” the former president wrote. “It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?”

Many Asian American politicians and celebrities are continuing to make their opinions about yesterday loud and clear on social media:


Lack of documentation cannot be boiled down to simply an issue of illegality. It’s a broader issue, one that involves uprooting people who have made their place in this country, many who actively give back to society like this Korean American woman does: “I worry about what others think of me and especially my parents. They made a mistake when they over stayed their visas, I know,” she acknowledged. “But, my parents are good people. In fact they tried so hard to be ‘American.’ I guess I just don’t want to believe that America isn’t a land of second chances, and that America is in fact a place of limited freedom.”

And now, it’s a difficult road ahead for these young Dreamers: “Honestly we don’t know what more we can do but to wait,” she said. “We can’t prepare for something that we don’t know the future of. We are just hoping for the best, our future is in the hands of people who have voices in America. We’re trusting them to forgive my parents for the sake of their children.”

Even with the results of yesterday, we can still stand in support of DACA and fight to protect these Americans from being unrightfully deported. Congress has the ability to preserve DACA’s provisions by creating legislation to protect DACA recipients before they lose status soon. We must urge our Congresspeople to stand in support of Dreamers and keep these 800,000 Americans from being wrongfully deported. To learn more about what Trump’s policies mean for DACA recipients, or to learn more about what you can do to help, visit United We Dream.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. You can show your support by liking our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/asamnews, following us on Twitter, sharing our stories, interning or joining our staff.


  1. RE: A Dramer’s Story: What DACA Means to One Korean American Woman: Firstly, being an American means following the US Rule of Law!
    Second, I’m glad that this undocumented Korean was able to get financial aid but did she consider that her financial aid deprived a legal citizen from getting aid? As a foreign student, my husband did not qualify for Sallie Mae loans and had to finance his education out of his own pocket.
    Third, this “Dreamer” claims that leaving Korea: “… was hard for my parents because they knew that this meant that they had to leave everyone they knew, everything that they had in Korea and start a new life with young kids at a place that they’ve never been to.” Yet, Dreamers argue that they should not be forced to return to their birth country where they can’t speak the language and leave all their friends behind to return to a country they can’t remember. So, why doesn’t this Dreamer do the same as her parents did when they left Korea — only in reverse?
    Fourth, this educated Dreamer should stop complaining and seize the opportunity to return to Korea and help those less fortunate. That is what foreign students do — they train here and then return to their country to impart their knowledge, ie, Give Back!
    Finally, this Dreamer should stop focusing on “I” and think about the people back in Korea who followed the US Rule of Law and did not overstay their visa. If those people are now in unfortunate circumstances, then this Dreamer should return and help them — Be the Change there!


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