He’s a brilliant Harvard student, a Rhodes Scholar, a philanthropist, and a DREAMer. Learn more about the remarkable Jin Park before he attends the State of the Union as a special guest on February 5.
Jin Park, 22, is making history. The accomplished Harvard student isn’t just graduating at the top of his class; he’s been named a Rhodes Scholar, the recipient of a prestigious scholarship that allows students to study at the University of Oxford after college. And, he’s the first undocumented immigrant in the United States to ever do so. Park, who came to the United States as a child and grew up in Flushing, NY, will attend President Donald Trump‘s State of the Union on February 5 as the guest of Representative Grace Meng (D-NY). Learn more about Park:
1. Park plans to use his Rhodes Scholarship to study and implement polices to improve immigrant health. Park came to the United States with his family when he was seven years old. His mother worked in beauty salons, and his father worked as a line cook and in restaurants. He is currently a senior at Harvard, getting a degree in molecular and cellular biology with a minor in ethnicity, migration and rights. He has two proposed masters degrees for his studies at Oxford: migration studies, and global health science and epidemiology. “I want to do those two degrees and come back and hopefully work in the context of public health department … [to] implement evidence-based policies to improve and work on immigrant health,” he told NPR.
2. Rep. Meng invited Park to the SOTU in hopes that it will show Trump how wrong he is in terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Without DACA, Park and many other young, undocumented immigrants would not have been able to stay in the United States. Calling terminating DACA “heartless and cruel,” Meng said to HuffPost that “Jin’s presence at the State of the Union will help keep the spotlight on how the president’s decision has devastated these hardworking young people and how it has put their futures in limbo. “Jin’s story will also highlight the urgent need to come up with a permanent solution to the problem. I am proud to stand in solidarity with Jin and all DACA recipients whose hopes and dreams hang in the balance as a result of the president’s decision.”
3. He called being undocumented “both a blessing and a curse.” Park wrote in a feature about DREAMers for The New York Times, “For me, being undocumented is both a blessing and a curse. It’s tiring to know that no matter how hard I work and how much I achieve, there will always be those who believe that I don’t have a place in this country. Yet, I am thankful that my lack of status constantly forces me to reexamine what I hold dearest about this country. Despite the rhetoric of the election and President Trump’s threats of deportation, I am steadfast in my belief that the values that have allowed me to succeed in America – fairness, equal opportunity, and self-determination – will prevail in the end.”
4. He is concerned that he may not be allowed back into the US after leaving for Oxford. Park told The Associated Press that it’s possible that he could lose his DACA status if he takes the Rhodes scholarship and goes to England to study at Oxford. While he has protected status to stay in the United States under DACA, he is still a citizen of South Korea, Trump has revoked overseas travel benefits from DREAMers.
5. He urges other DACA recipients anxious about their status to stay true to their reports. In an interview with NPR, Park said, “The biggest thing that I’d say is understand your roots, stay true to your roots. I think it’s real important to really understand where you’re coming from, understand who your peers are, who your community is, who you want to serve, because going forward I think that’s where you draw your strength.
“I draw my strength, personally, from visiting my dad in the restaurant and kind of touching his hand and feeling the blisters and the roughness of his hands and that always reminds me that I have to keep the focus on our community,” he continued. “That’s where I have to always come back. So that’s the kind of advice that I’d give: Stay true to your roots.”