UC San Diego Political Science Professor Tom Wong plans to announce his campaign for San Diego’s 53rd Congressional District on November 20, a seat which opened up after Democrat Rep. Susan Davis announced in September that she will not seek reelection. Wong will join Sara Jacobs, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez, and 11 others in the race for the 53rd district.
Wong submitted paperwork to run as a Democrat a few days before his opponent San Diego Council President Georgette Gómez won the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in the race.
The 53rd Congressional District stretches from the I-5 and Balboa Park on the west, through Mission Valley to East County, and continuing south to Chula Vista. Wong currently lives in San Diego’s North Park community.
Wong is a formerly undocumented immigrant, who immigrated with his family from Hong Kong at the age of two. Wong grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Riverside and later graduated with B.A. and a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Riverside. He started as a professor at UCSD in 2012.
“I was from a poor family in a poor neighborhood but going to the same schools as the rich kids … So I learned about class very early on in my life,” said Wong in a 2016 UC news release. “I learned about what I didn’t have. I also learned how easy it was to use differences—rich/poor, white/brown, white/black, black/brown—as an excuse for violence.”
Wong served as an adviser under the Obama administration in 2016 serving on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
He is the founding director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego (USIPC), which researches the consequences of U.S. immigration policy. Wong recently was the lead author on a USIPC study on the effects of the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” asylum policy, which found that the policy exposes asylum seekers to risks like violence and homelessness while waiting for their court dates.
Wong has also conducted research on sanctuary cities and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His most recent book The Politics of Immigration: Partisanship, Changing Demographics, and American National Identity published in 2016 focuses on the incentives congressional representatives have to support or oppose immigration policy reforms.
Along with his research on immigration policy, Wong has taught classes on immigration, human rights, and multiculturalism. According to his website, Wong has also consulted campaigns and elections on mobilizing low-propensity voters of color and immigrant communities.
Wong told KPBS in 2013 that his work on immigration politics and policy is done in honor of his parents.
“As a Chinese family, we aren’t very apt on sharing our feelings with each other,” Wong told KPBS. “A lot of why I do it, is to show them my appreciation, my acknowledgment that I understand why we came here the way we did and why the struggle growing up was actually worth it.”
If elected, Wong will be the third formerly undocumented immigrant to serve in Congress. The California Primary is on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 and, under the top-two primary system, will decide the two candidates who will be on the 2020 general election ballot.
Mo Al Elew is a Senior Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him @SoloMune.