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The DACA recipient who became an advocate for all undocumented immigrants

Anthony Ng (first row, fourth from the right) and AAAJ members campaign for a sanctuary law in California. Photo by Phoenix Tso.


Alhambra , CA United States

Anthony Ng didn’t find out that he was an undocumented immigrant until he was in high school.

He had come to the United States with his siblings when he was 12-years-old from the Philippines, joining his parents who had already moved. Once here, Ng concentrated on acclimating to a new language and culture, and then getting into a good college.

He was applying to an internship in Washington D.C., and had learned that he needed a social security number. Unfortunately, he didn’t have one and couldn’t do the program, realizing that being undocumented would complicate his ability to go college in other ways as well. “My senior year of high school, that was when I had a lot of difficulties and heartache about figuring out how to navigate the educational system as an undocumented person,” Ng said.

Circumstances changed when President Obama instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The program gave young undocumented immigrants like Ng protection from deportation and allowed them to work legally in the United States.

DACA opened up many doors for Ng. He had already succeeded in going to college, but was also able to get a driver’s license and safely travel. And because the program allowed him to work, Ng was able to become an immigration advocate for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, telling his story and advocating for immigration reform at various events with politicians and the public.

“People don’t really know what the words in that law would mean for a person on a day to day basis, how it would impact their daily lives, their family, their economic security and whatnot, and really putting a face to those words,” he said. “That’s really more relatable to elected officials and to the general public on why we need to pass such a policy.”

Ng admits that he didn’t think the government would end DACA. “It doesn’t make sense for that to strip away from people their ability to work and be self-sustaining,” he said. “But again, we live in different times now where the climate is very focused on demonizing immigrants and criminalizing immigrants out of expediency.”

He has found that the end of DACA has energized the immigration reform movement again. “Some folks are really mourning the announcement yesterday,” he said. “And some folks were really energized that they knew that DACA was only a temporary fix and are really trying to look at the bigger picture of really needing a more permanent solution, not just for undocumented youth but for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.”

A previous version of this story said that Ng has been able to travel to the Philippines since receiving DACA. It was corrected to reflect that he has traveled domestically, not overseas as part of the program’s advance parole provision.

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