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UC San Diego professor awarded for immigrant rights work

Tom Wong, UC San Diego assistant professor of political science
Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego Publications
Tom Wong in an undated photo.

UC San Diego professor Tom Wong was awarded the ACLU's Presidential Prize for his academic work on immigration, but his experience with the issue is personal.

UC San Diego political science professor Tom Wong received the ACLU Presidential Award in May for his “significant contributions to advancing immigrants’ rights.”

Though the award is meaningful to him, he said it meant even more to his parents.

"My story is an immigrant story, just like so many others here in San Diego. And to be able to receive such a prestigious award and have my parents there to see me get it was the culmination of their immigrant experience," Wong said.


Wong's road to academic acclaim was not an easy one. Brought to the United States as a toddler, he found out that he was undocumented when he was a teenager, leaving his future in the U.S. in jeopardy.

"I was really desperate and hopeless. But luckily for me I was able to adjust my immigration status when I was 19. I immediately applied to my hometown UC, which was UC Riverside, and went through undergrad, straight to grad school, and landed my dream job at UCSD," Wong said.

Wong joined Midday Edition on Thursday to talk about what the award means to him, as well as the dim prospects he sees for federal immigration reform in the near future.

"My concern is that the stalemate that we have seen when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, since I started working on this in 2013, will simply continue," he said.