Our Moving Stories: Episode 7 — DaishiConversation with: Daishi.
This podcast is hosted by Bruno Villegas.
Daishi was born in Japan of 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 become a citizen in the US, volunteered to sponsor the families’ migration. When Daishi is six, the family come on tourist visas, expecting the process to take a few months. Lamentably, they learned that the US immigration system has become far more Byzantine then when the grandfather had entered. The country quota system in place
disadvantages immigrants in queue from larger countries with long histories of migration streams like from the Philippines. After more than a decade, the families’ application is still not resolved.
Having over-stayed their visas, they become undocumented. Daishi shares some of the many burdens and sacrifices his parents go through because of their status, and the heartbreaking decision they make to self deport once their son has achieved some protection through DACA and has established himself at Harvard. He shares the heartbreak of not being able to see them or share in milestone events like graduations or holidays for over seven years as neither he nor his parents are able to travel abroad.
Daishi and Bruno share their experiences as undocumented students at Harvard, including the dread and vulnerabilities they feel when the 45th president is elected having explicitly run on a commitment to anti-immigration policies. They also describe how this mobilized them on 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. But the importance of belonging, community, and acceptance is certainly a take home that stands out for me. When Daishi first arrives as a first grader in Los Angeles, he finds himself in a place where everyone in his schools are different and yet are (in his words) “holding hands under the same flag.” The relief in finding a place of potential inclusion is immense. He describes the comfort finding community that “implicitly, or explicitly, know what it means to be an immigrant and are unified and supporting one another. For Daishi, at Harvard, after the election, the activism and community building work with Act on a Dream is about establishing 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.”
Arguably, belongingness to community and country is a fundamental human need and right denied to countless deserving folks represented in these Moving Stories.