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Flushing organization announces Dreamers Scholarship for undocumented students

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The MinKwon Center for Community Action in Flushing awarded the Dreamers Scholarship to Ben Lee (second from left) and Sergio Leon (c.) during a ceremony held on Friday, Oct. 21. (Photo courtesy of The MinKwon Center)

While the current status of DACA remains in limbo and students are still struggling to pursue their goals in higher education and in the job force, the MinKwon Center for Community Action in Flushing awarded the first two recipients of its Dreamers Scholarship on Friday, Oct. 21. 

Students Ben Lee and Sergio Leon were awarded the Dreamers Scholarship during a ceremony at the center, located at 133-29 41st Ave. Suite 202. The scholarship honors and recognizes the 11 millions undocumented young people, called “Dreamers” after the DREAM Act of 2011, and their struggle for educational equity. A longtime volunteer of the MinKwon Center donated $50,000 to distribute to two students who are currently pursuing or planning to pursue a degree in higher education. 

“This scholarship not only relieves some financial burden I have from my tuition, but it also tells me that I am valuable and that I deserve to live with dignity,” Lee said. “I hope to finish my college education and become a guidance counselor for other young people.”

The DACA program, which was implemented in June 2012 by the Obama administration providing temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to young undocumented immigrants, is currently in limbo.

On Oct. 5, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in State of Texas v. United States of America deemed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy illegal, impacting the lives of millions of people across the country, including hundreds of thousands in New York.

The court stated that “DACA is unlawful on both procedural and substantive grounds — in other words, the 2012 DACA memo was unlawfully published without required notice-and-comment procedures, and the 2012 DACA memo is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” according to the National Immigration Law Center. For now, the Fifth Circuit kept the district court’s stay in place, which means that current DACA recipients can continue to benefit from DACA and renew their grants of DACA and work authorization while the case continues, but first-time applications are still not being processed.

The MinKwon’s Center’s commitment to immigrant rights advocacy and organizing work is rooted in the Korean American community’s social and political awakening during the 1990s. This began in the wake of the LA Uprisings in 1992, and the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that was symbolized within Proposition 187 in California, followed by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, according to John Park, executive director of the MinKwon Center. 

“We will always fight for our community of immigrants from the bottom up,” Park said. 

Dahee Park, youth organizer of the MinKwon Center, said all people, regardless of their citizenship status, must be given the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams without fear. 

“Everyone has the right to a quality education that will not just check off some job criteria, but will provide them with an opportunity for upward social mobility,” Lee said. 

Jessica Park, immigrant justice organizer of the MinKwon Center, said education is a basic human right every single person ought to receive, yet many undocumented students face systemic barriers that prevent them from accessing the opportunities they deserve to get.

“We will fight for citizenship for all undocumented individuals so that they are able to have governmental resources available to them without having to rely on external sources,” Park said. 

Diana Park, who is also an immigrant justice organizer at the center, noted that education is power, and without it, a pathway to citizenship wilts. 

“Education is power, the lifeline of communities. Grounded against the bigoted beast, education implants the seeds of renewal, of change. An impactful tool of activism, education transfixes then transforms ideas of harm,” Park said. “In the immigrant justice movement, education is the vitalization of good ideas — ideas that do no harm, ideas that spark understanding.”

The MinKwon Center’s scholarship will continue to be funded by donations from the public. To donate to the scholarship fund, contact Dahee Lee via email at [email protected]

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