Jin Park was awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship in 2018. The scholarship includes two years of study at the University of Oxford in England. He planned to study migration and political theory. But he put off his plans amid uncertainty about whether the United States would allow him to return home.
At the time, Park was a Harvard undergraduate studying molecular and cell biology. Now more than two years later, he’s a Harvard Medical School student, and he’s finally going. In August, immigration officials approved Park’s application to travel to England.
Park’s family brought him to the United States from South Korea when he was seven years old. But they did not immigrate through proper legal channels. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama put into place a program for kids like Park. It was called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The president’s executive action applied to those brought illegally as children, nicknamed “Dreamers.” Those who qualified were protected from deportation and allowed to work.
Since then, Park and other DACA recipients have been caught in years of whiplash over the program.
OFF: In 2017, former president Donald Trump attempted to phase out the DACA program. One change took away the option to apply for permission for overseas travel. That meant if Park left the country, he could lose his DACA status. He wouldn’t be able to return.
ON: But a series of legal challenges effectively kept the program running. Current DACA status holders could still renew. But no new applications could be approved.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2020 found the administration did not take the proper steps to end DACA and rejected then-President Trump’s arguments that the program is illegal.
The Trump administration fully restored DACA last December shortly before Mr. Trump left office.
Current President Joe Biden has called on Congress to put DACA into law. He has also proposed giving Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.
OFF: In July, a federal judge in Texas ruled DACA illegal. That again barred the government from approving new applications. Existing recipients can still be in the program, at least for now. The future of DACA is still in question.
Santiago Potes will join Park at Oxford. He is the second Dreamer to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.
“We are thrilled that two DACA Rhodes Scholars will be heading to Oxford next month to start their courses, finally knowing they can safely and legally return after their studies to the only homes they know,” says Elliot Gerson of the Rhodes organization.
Why? The United States immigration system is complicated and ever-changing, sometimes valuing mercy over law and other times law over mercy. The DACA program is one small part of it which affect immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Pray: For wisdom for lawmakers trying to fix the immigration system, and for the wellbeing of migrants seeking security and safety.