Rhodes Scholar 'Dreamer' Gets Approval to Study in U.K. After 3-Year Immigration Delay

The first DACA recipient to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship was approved by federal immigration officials last week to attend the University of Oxford, marking an end to years of waiting because of hardline policies on "Dreamers" under former President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported.

Jin Park, a Queens, New York, resident born in South Korea, initially won the Rhodes Scholarship in 2018 as a student at Harvard pursuing an undergraduate degree in molecular and cell biology.

Park was forced to table his plans to pursue studies in migration and political theory when Trump made moves to do away with the DACA program, including rescinding the option to travel abroad for qualified recipients. Park's presence in the United Kingdom could have nullified his DACA status, rendering him unable to return home to the U.S.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

DACA Recipient
The first DACA recipient to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship was approved by federal immigration officials last week to attend the University of Oxford. Above, a woman holds a banner during a protest supporting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) at Foley Square in New York City on August 17, 2021. Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Park will be joined at Oxford by Santiago Potes, a Miami resident and 2020 graduate of Columbia University in New York who became the second American on DACA status to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship last November, according to the Rhodes Trust.

"We are thrilled that two DACA Rhodes Scholars will be heading to Oxford next month to start their courses, finally knowing they can safely and legally return after their studies to the only homes they know," said Elliot Gerson, the American secretary for the British organization, which is helping prepare the visas for the two incoming students.

Potes, who graduated from Columbia with degrees in East Asian studies and Medieval and Renaissance studies, hopes to use his time at Oxford to "give back to the United States, which has given me every opportunity to succeed."

Park, who currently attends Harvard Medical School in Boston, declined to comment Friday until he officially receives a copy of the approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

DACA recipients, commonly called "Dreamers" because of never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act, are protected from deportation because they were brought into the country illegally at a young age.

Trump's yearslong effort to wind down DACA faced a series of legal challenges that effectively kept the program running.

The legal battle was capped by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June that found the Republican administration did not take the proper steps to end DACA and rejected Trump's arguments that the program is illegal.

The Trump administration, in its waning days, fully restored DACA last December, beginning to accept new applications, petitions for two-year renewals and requests for permission to temporarily leave the country, which are known as advance parole.

Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has called on the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass legislation codifying DACA, which former President Obama had created by executive action in 2012.

The Democrat has also proposed giving DACA recipients and others on temporary legal status a pathway to citizenship as part of his campaign pledge to overhaul the nation's immigration system.

But the program and its supporters were dealt another blow last month when a federal judge in Texas ruled DACA illegal, barring the government from approving any new applications, but leaving the program intact for existing recipients.

Roughly 650,000 individuals are currently on DACA, down from a peak of nearly 800,000. To qualify, immigrants must have entered the country by 2007 and been under age 16 when they arrived.

Park, a vocal advocate for DACA recipients since he was in high school, had applied for the Rhodes scholarship as part of a broader effort to underscore how DACA recipients didn't qualify for the venerated award and others like it.

The effort led the Rhodes organization to expand eligibility for the scholarship, which was created in 1902 by British businessmen and politician Cecil Rhodes and provides all expenses for at least two years of study at Oxford.

Jin Park
The first DACA recipient to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship was approved by federal immigration officials last week to attend the University of Oxford. The recipient, Jin Park (above), who earned a degree in molecular and cellular biology at Harvard, listens during an interview in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 13, 2018. Charles Krupa, File/AP Photo