Good News from the White House!!!

Few weeks ago, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals. Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis:

1.) Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

2.) Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;

3.) Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

4.) Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

5.) Are not over the age of thrity.

I qualify for all of the criteria, so I would be eligible to apply for a work authorization.

Thank you for all the DREAM supporters!

I’m on the Sun again! Thanks everyone!

Undocumented Student to Pay Off Debt

FEBRUARY 23, 2012 

One week ago, Eric Hyun Jae Cheon ’12, an undocumented student, was not sure he would be able to stay enrolled at Cornell for much longer. As a result of strong support from students, alumni and DREAM Act activists around the country, however, Cheon discovered Tuesday that he will be able to finish his final semester.

Saddled with $10,000 in outstanding tuition from the fall 2011 semester — a debt he needed to pay by Friday in order to remain enrolled at the University — Cheon launched a fundraising campaign on Feb. 14 to fight to stay at Cornell. Ineligible for federal financial aid or loans as an illegal immigrant, Cheon had, in the past, taken a leave of absence to work full-time to afford his education.

But after sharing his story, Cheon saw a wave of donations that has given him a chance to stay and complete his senior year at Cornell.

“It happened in the middle of work,” Cheon said, recalling the moment on Tuesday when he learned he had reached his fundraising goal. “I was working at the restaurant and then Adrian [Palma ’13] called me and said, ‘Did you hear we passed $10,000?’”

One of Cheon’s co-workers at the restaurant, Laura Schwartz ’12, said she did not realize Cheon was an undocumented student until she saw his personal website by chance. Stunned, Schwartz said she spent the week refreshing the website to see how close Cheon was to his fundraising goal.

“I thought, oh my gosh, that’s Eric … If anybody deserves to be here, it’s him,” Schwartz said. “I felt I needed to help him. I’m really proud of him for getting as far as he did.”

The outpouring of support was “astonishing,” Cheon said, adding, “I just realized that Cornell is such a good place. I feel like this is the first time I’ve been truly happy here.”

Although Cheon, by speaking publicly about his undocumented status, risks deportation, he said he is not considering the possibility right now. He hopes that other undocumented students will also come forward and share their stories.

Palma, who helped publicize Cheon’s fundraising campaign, said that by “putting a personal face to the issue,” Cheon sparked support for other undocumented students in the community.

“Hopefully this will help undocumented students at Cornell know that Cornell students are willing to think outside of academics and daily tasks and think about a community that is out there,” Palma said. “That’s the beauty of it … that a community united to help him out.”

With $20,000 left to pay toward spring semester tuition, Cheon said “it’s not the end of the story.” Still, he expressed his gratitude to those who reached out to him.

“It doesn’t really matter if you donated or signed a petition. No gift is too small,” Cheon said. “The fact that [people] went to my blog, were interested and wanted to know about me really gives me courage and strength. I really thank everybody.”


Thank you all

Thank you everyone for your support.

I could successfully raised $10,000 for in a week!

I really give credit to everyone who supported this campaign and the bigger cause.

Thank you!!


Great News!!!

A Cornell alumni family contacted me through a staff member, and their family is closely watching how my story develops.  Let’s keep up the momentum. . .stay tuned!

I’m on the Cornell Daily Sun!!

Clock Ticks for Undocumented Student

FEBRUARY 17, 2012

Eric Hyun Jae Cheon ’12 says he faces a grim truth: he may have just one week left at Cornell.

Cheon, an undocumented student who is living in the U.S. illegally, must pay the University $10,000 in tuition owed for the fall semester by Feb. 24 or he will no longer be allowed to enroll at Cornell, administrators confirmed Thursday. Students banded together shortly before midnight on Wednesday, posting fliers on street lights, Thurston Bridge and the doors of Day Hall asking people to donate to help Cheon meet his payment, according to Oscar Correia ’14, one of the advocates.

Despite scrambling to pay tuition every semester he has been at Cornell — working 30 to 40 hours a week while juggling five engineering classes — Cheon has remained focused on his goal: completing his education. He currently works 12-hour shifts at a restaurant, and previously took a leave of absence from Cornell to work full-time, tutoring students and working in a factory to pay for his education.

“I tried to stay really positive,” Cheon said. “I thought, ‘I’m undocumented? … So what? I can go to college, but I can’t get financial aid? Okay, I can work with that.’”

Although Cheon risks deportation by drawing attention to his undocumented status, he said he speaks openly about his issues because he is convinced that “it’s really important for people to speak out about their stories and not be afraid or embarrassed.”

“I think the Cornell community should know that there are people struggling; that’s why I decided to come out about it,” Cheon said.

There are somewhere between 15 to 30 undocumented students on campus, although their exact numbers are unknown by the University, The Sun reported in November. Like these students, Cheon is ineligible to receive federal financial aid or take out loans to finance his tuition.

“I was 12 years old when I first came here from Korea … My family came here to run a business, but the owner was a scammer who took our money and ran away,” Cheon said, explaining that his family had entered the U.S. planning to stay with an E-2 visa, which individuals running businesses are eligible to apply for.

Cheon said that his family argued back and forth over whether to remain in the U.S. without a visa or to return to Korea, but that he made it clear he wanted to stay and pursue his education.

“That’s how we ended up being illegal immigrants,” Cheon said.

As of Thursday evening, Cheon had raised $1,720 through his personal website, which students have helped publicize. He said the fundraising needed this week is “not the end, but a continuing effort,” as he still has to raise the $20,000 to pay for spring semester.

A few weeks ago, Cheon decided to share his story with Renee Alexander ’74, associate dean of students and director of intercultural programs. He walked straight into her office to introduce himself.

“I was shocked. I was really taken aback by his personal narrative,” Alexander said. “I had no face-to-face experience with undocumented students before, so [Cheon’s] story of humility, strength and forthrightness spoke to me. Here is a young guy who is really trying to complete his education, living in the shadows and not having papers to move about freely.”

Adrian Palma ’13, co-president of La Asociacion Latina, a Latino umbrella student organization, echoed Alexander’s shock at Cheon’s openness about his undocumented status.

“When I met up with him in a restaurant, I didn’t know he was open about his status, so I asked him, ‘Are you comfortable sharing your story? We can keep our voices down,’” Palma recalled. “He said, ‘No, I’m very open about it’ … I think, in general, it can serve as an example that you shouldn’t be afraid of showing who you are.”

Alexander said that Cheon not only “puts a face on undocumented students’ situations,” but also raises questions about how the University can support students like him.

“The New York State DREAM Act — what it means, how it will be interpreted — is coming to the forefront,” she said. “We’re going to be hearing more about this issue. How can we support one group over another? It’s very complicated.”

Patricia Nguyen, assistant dean of students and director of the Asian and Asian American Center, said she also tried to help Cheon. After meeting him through Alexander, Nguyen said in an email that she “moved quickly” to try to find avenues of support for Cheon through the University.

“We walked around on campus, service to service, to see what resources we could find. As expected, we did get a lot of ‘no’s,’ but I was so inspired by [Cheon’s] positive attitude,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said she has shared Cheon’s story with alumni and professional networks.

“I think it’s important to support students like Eric because this isn’t his problem, or just a Latino problem — this is all of our problems,” she wrote. “Education, [and] in particular institutions of higher education, are places of access and change in our society. It would be unfortunate that an institution that can serve as a tool for social change cannot be the change.”

Correia said he wants to help raise awareness about undocumented students at Cornell.

“People know there are millions of them in the U.S.A. but don’t realize that some of them are here,” he said, adding that Cheon is the first undocumented student he has met who has had “such a financial struggle.”

Cheon said the support he has received, with people “staying up until 3 or 4 a.m. to finish writing petitions [for him],” has blown him away.

“I don’t know how to pay everyone back for their contributions … but Renee [Alexander] said that you can pay it forward and not back,” he said. “I can get out of here, I can be successful and I can support those who need help.”

While Cheon said he plans on pursuing a career in tech startup after graduating, he said he ultimately wants to continue advocating on behalf of undocumented students.

“My long-term goal is to be a philanthropist, because I’ve been through this situation for a long time,” he said. “I’m sure there will be other students in the future who will face similar difficulties.”

Related Article

New Aid Policy May Hurt Undocumented Students

President Skorton Vows Help for Undocumented Students

Dear All Letter

Dear students, allies,  DREAMers, and supporters,

I would like to start by expressing my deepest gratitude to all of you for your interest, help and work you have done for me and other DREAMers across the Cornell campus. Your support has given me a tremendous amount of courage and strength, and I am certain that other DREAMers are honored to have supporters like you.

My family and I moved to the United States when I was twelve years old, in June 2001. My family contacted a business owner in New Jersey before we immigrated and he agreed to sell his business to my family. We immigrated, settled down ,and my brother and I started school. It turned out that my family had been scammed by the business owner. Unfortunately, we did not know about this until February of 2002. I could always hear my parents arguing afterwards over what to do and what would happen to my family. I remember my dad asking me, “Do you want to stay in the U.S. or return to Korea?” I did not even hesitate and said I wanted to stay here because I loved this country, my school, and the people around me.

Unlike many other DREAMers, I knew I was undocumented. However, I did not really know what being undocumented meant. I asked myself: “Does it mean I cannot go to school anymore or travel overseas?” During my last year of high school, my mom told me to go to a community college instead of an expensive private university and I listened to her. While I was in community college preparing to transfer to a four-year college, I learned more about what my limitations are as an undocumented immigrant. In terms of going to college, I cannot get federal financial aid. I also do not qualify for state residency tuition in New Jersey, not because I pay too little tax, but because I am undocumented. Fortunately, Cornell, with its need-blind admission policy, accepted my application as a transfer student.

During the summer before I came to Cornell, I worked hard to save money for my education. I applied for international financial aid but I was deferred. With those savings and some of the savings from my parents, I could successfully finish my first year at Cornell. But those savings were not enough; in fact, they are not even close to what I need to continue my education at Cornell so I decided to take a leave of absence and plan my future steps.

During the time that I was away, I worked long days and nights in order to save money. I joined a non-profit organization to work on comprehensive immigration reform during the first year of the Obama Administration. From my discussions with Congressmen, I figured that comprehensive immigration reform was impossible so I came back to New York and worked in restaurants and as a tutor. I also saved extra money by working on websites.

With the savings I made in New York and generous people’s donations, I came back to finish my junior year at Cornell. I am very thankful for everyone who helped me.

Now I am here. Over the winter, I raised $10,000 out of the $20,000 I owed for the Fall 2011 semester. Now, I need your help. Even if I raise $10,000 through this campaign, I still have to raise another $20,000 for the Spring 2012 semester. But I do not want to give up. My status and financial difficulties can slow me down, but with your help, they will not stop me from achieving my long time goal of graduating from Cornell University, making me the first member of my family to receive a college degree.

Please make a contribution and show that the Cornell community supports its mission that any person, can find instruction in any study. Even a person like me.

Thank you.


Eric Hyun Jae Cheon

Information Science, System and Technology ‘12
College of Engineering
Cornell University


Please click HERE to sign the petition

Popular Questions that People Ask Me

Since I launched my blog, a lot of people asked me more detail about how I ended up being in Cornell. So I thought it would be a good idea to jog down some of the questions that people have in their mind, and the answers that I have for them.

I hope this will clarify everyone!

Q: How did you get accepted to Cornell if you are undocumented?
A: Cornell University has need-blind admission policy. It not only includes your financial ability to pay the tuition, but also includes your immigration status. The US Congress has passed a bill that lets any children in the United States be able to attend K-12 public schools system with presence of student’s parents or legal guardians. But there is no bill specifically mentioning about undocumented students attending colleges or universities. Fortunately, Cornell does accept undocumented students in their admission, so as long as you keep up with your school work and the test scores, you can get into Cornell

Q: You said you are not registered. How can you attend classes?
A: The deadline for registering to the university without recurring the late fee is Feb 10th. Usually they give up to 2 weeks for students to solve any problems that they face and waive the late fee depending on the situation. So basically the University Registrar impose a $350 late fee to any student registering after the third week of classes, or $500 after the sixth week. And students are allowed to go to class and have access to university programs such as blackboard and bus passes. But I have to clear the balance from the previous terms in order to be registered anytime soon, otherwise I will be withdrawn from the university.

Q: You are a senior right now, and you said you need to clear the pervious terms that you owned to the university. How did you pay the previous tuition in your Sophomore and junior year?
A: I transfered to Cornell as a second semester sophomore. Before I came here, I worked full time in summer in order to pay the tuition. I set up a monthly payment program, paying $5,000 per month for 10 month. After a year in Cornell, I took a leave of absent, working full time to save money to come back. During those times, I met a lot of good people who wants to privately donate/lend some money to me so that I can go back to Cornell. And they includes my family members and relatives, co-workers and friends. So I had enough money to attend my junior year. And Now I am facing this challenge again to pay for my senior year, and I need your help this time!!

I hope these Q&A post helped you understand me better. If you have any further questions, just leave a comment and I will address it as soon as possible!

I’m off to work!

Hey, it’s time to make some extra Benjamin!! (haha)

See you all later and even if you don’t see you, I wish you to have a happy Valentine’s Day!

pic: my_crews

Since when has my valentine been Mr. Franklin?


It is the Valentine’s Day, and I know that it is the day of love. People share chocolates to whom they love and they usually go out for nice dinner to celebrate this day. Good for you those who have your valentines… I can’t wait to see those pathetic souls in facebook later today complaining how they ended up being singles and tried to be cool about it.

Okay. I am a long-time single male in his early 20s who have never spent a penny for my valentine on the Valentine’s Day for at least 5 years. Well, I made it sounded like I am a little cheap person. But as an experienced waiter who worked in 7 different restaurants over 5 years of my waiting career, the Valentine’s Day is probably the most profitable day in a year.

Obviously, I am also working tonight in my restaurant in Collegetown. And I can’t wait to get in there and serve couples with my best ability to sell as much food and wine as possible. And I think for the past 5 years, I always saw Benjamin Franklin’s face at the end of the day.

Just in case you come in for regular Tuesday 30% off deal, sorry that we don’t offer that deal for today. :(