Daishi was born in Japan to a Filipino mother and a Japanese father. As a child of mixed origins, he finds himself bullied in school in the monocultural context of Japan.
His mother’s father, who had moved to the US and become a citizen, offered to help the families move there. When Daishi is six, the family comes on tourist visas, expecting the process to take a few months. However, they discovered that the immigration process in the US had become much more complicated since the grandfather’s entry. The way the country quota system works makes it harder for people from bigger countries with long histories of migration, like the Philippines, to get into the country. After more than a decade, the families’ application is still pending.
Having overstayed their visas, they become undocumented. Daishi discusses some of the hardships and sacrifices his parents endure as a result of their situation, as well as the painful choice they made to self-deport after Daishi established himself at Harvard and received some protection through DACA. He shares the sorrow of not being able to see them or be present for significant occasions like vacations or graduations for more than seven years because neither he nor his parents are able to travel abroad.
Daishi and Bruno discuss their experiences as undocumented students at Harvard. They talk about how they feel afraid and vulnerable when the 45th president is elected because he ran on a platform of being against immigration. They also describe how this mobilized them in their course of civic engagement and change agency.
Many lessons can be taken from this important conversation, including some insights into the current Faustian policy dilemmas. One lesson that jumps out is the significance of community, acceptance, and belonging. When Daishi first arrives as a first grader in Los Angeles, he finds himself in a place where everyone in his school is different and yet is (in his words) “holding hands under the same flag.” The relief of finding a place of potential inclusion is immense. He describes the comfort of finding a community that, “implicitly or explicitly, knows what it means to be an immigrant and is unified and supportive of one another. After the election of Donald Trump, Daishi utilizes his activism and community-building work with Act on a Dream to establish a community of support. As he says, what we wanted was “to know that tangibly and symbolically, the campus cared about us when the country did not.”
Indeed, the right and essential human need of belonging to a community and country is denied to the many deserving people depicted in these Moving Stories.
Listen to Daishi’s Moving Story here