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News Posted on November 5, 2013

Living the Dream: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Fellow Jihan Kahssay '12

As the UC Davis School of Law Immigration Law Clinic's first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Fellow, Jihan Kahssay '12 is doing inspiring work, but it's her clients who are truly inspirational, the recent King Hall graduate said.

Thanks to the generosity of Nancy S. Coan Torres '86 and Michael A. Torres, who funded the DACA Fellowship, Kahssay is working with "dreamers," undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children. As a group, their activism has helped spur the passage of the California DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act and the launch of the Obama administration's DACA program, as well as other measures expanding the rights of undocumented immigrants, Kahssay said.

"In this fellowship, I'm working with a population of clients who are extremely motivated and incredibly intelligent," she said. "The law basically declined to acknowledge their existence, so they worked to make to make their presence known, and changed the law.  They see their dreams, and they see beyond the limitations of the law, and they're inspiring me to see that way, as well."

As a law student, Kahssay worked for the Immigration Law Clinic, Legal Services of Northern California, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ethiopia, where she assisted refugees in their efforts to resettle. Now, as the DACA Fellow, she is able to assist "dreamers" seeking work permits and educational access. She is also participating in community workshops on the DACA program and collaborating with groups across the UC Davis campus to provide outreach and resources for undocumented students.

"The Clinic has helped thousands of qualified immigrants through the DACA program, but there are many more young people who can be helped with additional support for its staff and operations," said Nancy Coan Torres.  "We are proud to be able to support the Clinic through the DACA Fellowship."