On June 26, 2016, Asian Law Alliance in partnership with SIREN and Silicon Valley De-Bug sponsored an event that focused on the Asian Pacific Islander community and Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA). After a performance by Far East Lion Dragon Dance Association, the event screened two short documentaries on DACA recipients: Halmoni and Dream Riders.
Halmoni is a documentary that chronicles the journey of immigrant rights advocate, Ju Hong, a DACA recipient, to his home country of South Korea. The documentary follows Ju as he travels to see family he has not seen in decades and the emotions that follow thereafter. Ju stresses the importance of immigrant rights and the benefits of DACA, especially for those immigrants who are separated from their home country by an ocean.
Dream Riders is a documentary that follows a group of DACA recipients as they travel around the United States sharing their stories as immigrants and joining hands with other social movements in the local communities. Dream Riders highlights the challenges that many immigrants face when they have to hide their status and are afraid to share their stories due to repercussions from immigration. It shows that there is a very real fear of being separated from family and returned to a country never known as home.
After the screening, a panel discussion was held featuring Charisse Domingo – Organizer and Trainer at Silicon Valley De-Bug, Anna Oh – Filmmaker of Halmoni, and Theodore Ko – staff attorney at Asian Law Alliance. The panel discussion focused on the personal experiences of DACA recipients and what their lives were like before and after DACA. The panel stressed the importance of community involvement and gave evidence of the many benefits of DACA. The underlying message was that all members of the community should raise awareness about the benefits of DACA and for those who are able to vote in the 2016 Fall Election to make their voices heard and vote.
An open Q&A session followed the panel discussion. There was a focus on the difficulties of encouraging the Asian Pacific Islander communities to apply for DACA – according to some estimates, out of a few million eligible, only tens of thousands are applying for the benefit. The panel acknowledged that community engagement, especially with undocumented immigrants, has been an ongoing challenge. Thus, moving forward, continued advocacy and striking the right message through the proper channels will hopefully break through to the underrepresented Asian Pacific Islander communities and inspire them to apply for DACA.