The Vietnamese Student Union (VSU) is proud to be a co-sponsor with the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center, UCLA students and other organizations in launching Undocumented and Unafraid: Tam Tran, Cinthya Felix, and the Immigrant Youth Movement. The book launch will be held in the California Room at the UCLA Faculty Center from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM on November 26, 2012.
This book is a tribute to the lives and work of two UCLA alumnae, Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix, who both passed in a tragic car accident. They were both strong advocates and leaders for the immigration youth rights movement. As you may recall, VSU showcased the story of Tam Tran during our 2011 Vietnamese Culture “Còn nước, còn tát: Still We Rise”. For those who missed it, the story was based on the true trials and tribulations of the Tran family, demonstrating the resilience of Vietnamese people. Following the Vietnam War, the family fled Vietnam and found refuge in Germany before settling in the United States. After more than a decade of rebuilding their lives in America, the family risked losing everything when the government threatened to deport them for being undocumented. The book expands on Tam’s story, and focuses specifically on her work with the immigrant rights movement. Tam has publicly talked about the Dream Act, screened her films, made presentations before several national conventions and conferences, and testified before the US Congressional Immigration Subcommittee.
When speaking on issues of immigration, many tend to forget about undocumented youth, many of them immigrated here when they were only children with their parents hoping to find a better life in the United States. These children grow up thinking they were American, not knowing they were here illegally until they are faced with the reality that they are unable to acquire drivers’ licenses like their peers in school. Without proper documentation, they can’t legally work, obtain financial aid, or even go to the movie theaters. They constantly fear deportation and they are afraid to speak up. They have to work under the table because they lack a social security number. It is immoral for us to send undocumented youths and students back to a country they never grew up in. Like Tam, she was only six years old when the Tran family came to the United States. The Tran family applied for political asylum, but was denied because they had emigrated from Germany rather than directly from Vietnam. The family received a withholding of deportation exemption, but no pathway was available to legal residency or US citizenship. An excerpt from the book:
“Tam was Vietnamese, but she had never been to Vietnam and was not a Vietnamese citizen. She was born in Germany, but Germany does not grant citizenship based on birthright. And although Tam spent more than twenty years in the United States, the American government refused to grant her legal status. So she was not only undocumented but also stateless, trapped in a disgraceful immigration morass” (4-5).
Undocumented youth cannot simply gain documentation by completing the U.S. citizenship test. The broken immigration system prevents folks from migrating to the United States, with the waitlist as long as ten years to be allowed citizenship or access into the country. It is a difficult process to gain legal status, and applying for citizenship varies on case-by-case bases, and it is deemed impossible for many families.
The undocumented youth experience is still a real struggle for many undocumented youth especially for the Asian Pacific Islander Community. There is a misconception that this is mainly a Latina/o issue, but many API youth are faced with the undocumented experience. Silence is common among the API community, because of the sociocultural practice of being silent in fear of being harmed. Tam showed that “her courage to speak up on behalf of other students demonstrates that silence is a habit that can be broken” (49). Tam has spoken in front of US Congressional Immigration Subcommittee and advocated for the Federal DREAM Act, which would have allowed undocumented youth a chance to gain citizenship. Three days later, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents raided her family’s home and took the Tran family into custody. They were release and avoided deportation with the help of members in Congress and immigration attorneys.
Today, the immigrant youth movement has been building momentum throughout the country and has made significant progress in advocating for undocumented youth, but the legislative obstacles and trials undocumented youth have to face are still daunting and a harsh reality today. In 2010, the DREAM Act passed in the House of Representatives, but failed to pass in the senate. However, in 2012, the Obama’s administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) plan. DACA would stop the deportation of undocumented youth who match the certain criteria previously proposed under the Dream Act. DACA prevents deportation for a period of two years and allows them to be legally employed. The United States are taking steps in the right direction; we now must push for a gateway for undocumented students to gain citizenship.
We recommend you to grab a copy of the book for yourself, your friends and family at the book launch. Please visit: http://www.undocumentedunafraid.com to find out more about the book. On the website you can learn about other book tours and order online a copy of the book. The Federal Dream Act can become a possible reality for undocumented students if we bring awareness to the issue and we speak up for them.