The White House held an event on Tuesday to highlight success stories of immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children, including one 28-year-old woman who emigrated from Taiwan.
Esther Yu-Hsi Lee (李御璽) was among 10 young immigrants labeled Champions of Change, all of whom have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by US President Barack Obama’s administration.
The program grants reliefs from deportation and the opportunity for employment and education for illegal immigrants who were brought into the country before they reached the age of 16 and stayed, though it does not provide a pathway to citizenship.
Lee, an immigration reporter for online publication ThinkProgress, said that she was only two years old when her parents brought her and her older siblings to California from Taiwan in 1988.
Undocumented and residing in the country illegally, she has never been able to travel overseas because she knows that leaving the US means she will not be able to get back in.
Lee said that her roots are in Taiwan, and she holds a Republic of China passport, but she identifies culturally as an American first.
If the opportunity arises, she added, Taiwan is one of the places she hopes to visit.
Lee grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Middle East studies, and a master’s degree in psychology.
Before the program gave her a way to work legally, she got by as a nanny, a Mandarin tutor and occasional housekeeper in New York.
With her current job in Washington, she hopes to raise awareness of immigration-related news as it happens across the country and to highlight the personal stories of undocumented immigrants.