COMMENTARY: The Parents’ Sacrifice


A rally is held in downtown Los Angeles following the announcement on that the Trump administration is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (Photo by MIKE MURASE)


By LISA OKAMOTO

On Sept. 5, 2017, President Trump announced the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, also known as DACA. DACA is an Obama-era program that allowed for undocumented young people to apply for work permits without the threat of being deported if they were brought to the United States as children before 2007.

DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers or the “DACAmented,” are one of the most sympathetic groups of immigrants to the mainstream because they did not make the choice to come here to the United States. Most of the time, their parents made the decision to come here and to bring their children with them. While the support for Dreamers is currently overflowing, many shift the blame to their parents. “You can’t punish the kids when the parents broke the law.”

I challenge all of us, especially the Nikkei community, to step away from that narrative.

For the past couple of years, I have been representing undocumented children in deportation proceedings. I currently work at a nonprofit law firm that largely serves the Latinx population. (“Latinx” is a gender-neutral term used within the community in place of “Latino” or “Latina.”) I have also met and worked with many DACAmented folks. As a Shin-Nisei, I am often asked why I got into immigration law and why I got into the type of law the Nikkei community is often not exposed to.

The short answer is that it was all serendipitous. I happen to speak Spanish and I graduated law school at a time when there was a surge of children fleeing violence from Central America and placed in deportation proceedings.