A Beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Jin Kyu Park, the DACA recipient, is currently an undergraduate student at Harvard University studying molecular and cellular biology. He is also the managing editor of the Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal.
DACA is a program established by President Barack Obama to allow children who were brought to the U.S. by their undocumented parents, a path to staying in the country legally. One of the first things Donald Trump did when he took office was to issue to end the program. A series of lawsuits are still winding its way through the courts challenging Trump’s action.
The Korean American student actually applied last year but was denied because of his DACA status. His application forced the Rhodes Trust to reexamine its criteria, which it eventually changed to accommodate DACA students. Park will join a class of 32 U.S. students receiving the Rhodes Scholarship in 2019.
Established in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes, the scholarships cover all costs for two or three years of study at Oxford. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, and leadership potential, among other attributes.
Park was born in South Korea and came to the United States at the age of seven. He grew up in New York City.
Last year, Park wrote an oped for The New York Times. “As a child, I wanted to escape all semblance of my immigrant identity. I never wanted to be known as Jin Kyu Park, the Korean immigrant of a restaurant laborer and a nail salon worker. But as I grew and learned, I realized that my lack of status had defined the way I experienced America. My status is inextricably linked to my identity, because it has affected every single way I interact with this country – from close friends to political institutions. As an undocumented immigrant, I don’t choose to be political. My existence is by definition political through means out of my control,” he wrote.
“Growing up as an undocumented person in New York City, I had a lot of formative experiences that have taught me that it’s important for me to use my talents and my educational training to give back to the undocumented community,” Park told the Harvard Crimson. “And I wanted to do that through the lens of healthcare.”