From Living in Fear of Deportation to Now Empowering AAPIs
I am proud to be the Assistant District Director at the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division and a member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders' (WHIAAPI) Regional Interagency Working Group. But this position did not come easily.
Growing up as an undocumented child, I bounced around multiple schools before finally settling in Monterey Park with my grandmother. Even though I grew up in an ethnic enclave such as Monterey Park, my grandmother and I constantly lived in fear of deportation. But my grandmother was hopeful, reassuring me that community leaders were rallying and fighting for people like me.
I received my green card through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act and after becoming a U.S. citizen, I worked as an intern at the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. As an intern, I worked side-by-side with investigators on many Wage and Hour cases, including the El Monte sweatshop case in 1995, where 72 Thai garment workers were victims of human trafficking and worked for some of the most visible brands in the United States.
I realized that not so long ago, I was the one living in constant fear, but now I was here, helping these victims of human trafficking. I was promoted to be an investigator after graduating from college. Today as the Assistant District Director I continue my work in protecting the American workforce, especially the most vulnerable. I am currently working on programs to better coordinate engagement efforts across federal and regional offices and to share information and resources between agencies and with the AAPI community.
I have also been selected to serve on the WHIAAPI and Federal Asian Pacific American Council challenge team on capacity building, where I am working to find solutions to building and strengthening strategic partnerships between government and the community that are vitally important to all of us.
Paul Chang is the Assistant District Director at the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division and a member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ Regional Interagency Working Group.