Liz Dong: I’m an Undocumented Immigrant and an Evangelical Christian


Immigration is a biblical issue

Since the U.S. presidential election, I find myself belonging to two at times contradictory groups: one that President-elect Donald Trump is targeting and another that helped carry him to the presidency. I’m a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and I’m an evangelical Christian.

I came into the country from China legally as a dependent under my mom’s work visa when I was 10. I lost my status in 2001 when our immigration lawyer forgot to attach my paperwork to my mom’s when she changed jobs and needed to apply for a new employer-sponsored work visa. We tried to find workable solutions to reinstate my status under the current immigration system, but none existed.

I was devastated by the discovery that I was now undocumented. Some 11 million immigrants live in the U.S. without proper documentation, due to overstaying their visas, crossing the border illegally (sometimes through human trafficking) or other reasons. This group would have been a “them” to me, but I was now part of it. I discovered that we are far more similar than different. And like the immigrants before us, we come in pursuit of freedom and a chance to realize our full potential.

Without legal status, I could not drive, work, or, at the time, attend university, even though I had graduated among the top of my high school class. For 11 years, my undocumented status loomed over every aspect of my life like a dark cloud. Then, in 2012 the Obama administration instituted DACA to protect undocumented immigrants like me who were brought to the U.S. as children.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to terminate DACA upon assuming office. Immediate termination or letting DACA expire without renewal would take away temporary legal status and work authorization for me and my fellow 740,000-plus DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, who did not have a say in coming to the U.S. as children and make us eligible for deportation. Many DACA recipients have known only America as home. Such an act not only would pull hundreds of thousands of us out of our jobs—as teachers, farmers, business owners, service providers, innovators, etc.—and out of the local economy, but also would separate many of us from our family members who are U.S. permanent legal residents and citizens.

This is not smart. It is not humane. And it is not American.

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Liz Dong is the Midwest Mobilizer for the National Immigration Forum’s Bibles, Badges & Business for Immigration Reform network and a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

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