They are known as “dreamers” — 700,000 immigrants in the United States who arrived illegally as children.
Since 2012, they’ve been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Last year, President Donald Trump announced that starting on March 5, 2018, no new DACA Applications will be accepted, and that he would begin closing the program for those already enrolled — such as not renewing people’s DACA status once it expires.
Congress had until then to fix the situation, but so far, the Republican-controlled Senate has failed to pass four immigration bills that would have protected these “dreamers”. Congress won’t take up the issue again until it returns from recess on Feb. 26.
For people like Max Kim of Maryland it’s now a waiting game, with dwindling options.
Kim’s family left South Korea when he was only five years old. He’s now 20 years old, and considers himself an American. Returning to South Korea would be a culture shock, he said.
“It’s really hard for me to imagine living in a different country,” he said. “Although I speak Korean, my culture is now very American, and I don’t know anyone there. I would have to start over.”
When former President Barack Obama first established DACA, Kim said his family was skeptical and didn’t want him to enroll. But last year he convinced them that having DACA status would help his future.
After he was admitted into the program, he got a job at a Japanese restaurant is is now training to be a chef. It’s a dream he has had since childhood.
As he rapidly diced vegetables, Kim said he is full of fear and uncertainty now.
His job helps to support his family and he worries about how they will be impacted.
“As soon as DACA ends its the same situation all over again. After you get that sense of freedom, it now feels like it’s being ripped away,” he said.