Georgia, he said, is the only place he’s ever known.
Now Partolan, and thousands of other young, undocumented immigrants who live here, is grappling with the threat that it may not always be home.
President Donald Trump pledged to dismantle Obama-era immigration protections such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that allows Partolan to receive a work permit, a driver’s license, and has given him a sense of safety.
Volunteer Jongwon Lee (L) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice program associate Raymond Partolan (C) talked with Johns Creek homeowner Dr. Ahmed Baosman at his home last May. Partolan was under the protections of Obama-era immigration policies, which are being rescinded under President Donald Trump. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Last month, President Trump announced he intended to phase out DACA, and unless Congress acts Partolan will be at risk.
“There was this sense of hope because now with the DACA program’s repeal, the ball really is in Congress’ court. And I personally am cautiously optimistic that Congress will decide to act this time because there’s never been this sense of urgency,” Partolan said.
His DACA paperwork expires in August.
“On a personal level, I’m doing as much as I can to save as much money as I can because when that day comes I will not be able to work legally in the U.S.,” he said. “On an advocacy level, I’ve really been trying to fire up all of the undocumented people and DACA recipients around me.”
Many people don’t know that DACA recipients aren’t just from Central and South America, he said. South Korea and the Phillipines are both in the top 10 countries of origin.
In the Asian community there’s a “unique stigma” attached to being in the United States illegally because of the stereotype that Asian-Americans are the best-performing, highest-earning, most studious minority group, he said. He said his parents came to the country on a legal visa but their Green Card applications to become permanent residents were later denied.
Partolan said he felt ostracized by other Asian immigrants. Their illegal status was a “blemish” and “instantly we became alienated,” he said.
“We were a family that no one wanted to be around,” he said.
DACA gave Partolan a chance to emerge from the shadows, though he said his undocumented parents remain at risk.
After graduating from Mercer University, he worked for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, a legal advocacy organization.
He is currently a paralegal at a law firm specializing in immigration cases.
“Now, more than ever, I see myself as an advocate for all undocumented communities,” he said.