Jung Woo Kim moved to Chicago when he was 15.
As an undocumented immigrant from Korea, he faced challenges other people his age didn’t.
Kim had three jobs that paid him under the table, but he still didn’t earn enough to pay for college.
He couldn’t afford healthcare, so he didn’t seek medical treatment when he broke a few of his ribs
Without a driver’s license or any other form of identification, he couldn’t buy over-the-counter allergy medicine.
But things changed in 2012 when former President Barack Obama announced a program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, which offers protection from deportation to undocumented people brought to the country as children.
“My life changed 180 degrees after I received DACA,” said Kim, who went on to attend college. He now has medical insurance and earns a living wage.
“All of the things I have now are a basic human right that every single person in America deserves and should have,” Kim said.
Two years ago today, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions terminated the program.
On Thursday, Chicago advocates recognized this anniversary by highlighting the program’s benefits. Organizations like the Hana Center, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights among others took the opportunity to highlight how DACA has impacted young immigrants.
Kim and others shared their stories and urged Chicagoans to support local efforts to keep the DACA protections in place.
“DACA has given me, and 40,000 other young immigrants in Illinois, the opportunity to live, work, and study in the United States,” said Esther Jeon, a DACA recipient with NAKASEC.
“DACA has allowed me to stay together with my loved ones in the country I know as home,” Jeon said. “But now, me and 700,000 young people across the country are in danger of losing these protections because the [U.S.] Supreme Court will be deciding on DACA’s fate this November.”
Protections for DACA recipients are still in effect, at least until the high court issues its decision.
The Associated Press reported that civil rights organizations sued to prevent the Trump administration from ending the program.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Oral arguments before the Supreme Court will start in November. A final ruling is expected in June 2020, organizers said.
María Ines Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.