Anonymous Undocumented Harvard Student #2
This story was read on March 10, 2010, during our coming out event at Harvard.
Harvard, Class of 2009
Every great story begins with something about the self-evident human right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hope that one day my story will too, begin this way.
For now, all I have is a story about perseverance in the face of adversity; about patience through insurmountable frustrations; about a life full of hope, and about the dreams that someday will not only have to be just dreams.
I have spent the last 15 years of my life in prison, and I am only 23 years old. I never did anything wrong, but I have to live the life of an inmate, trapped in silence, always able to watch, but never able to do. In the last 15 years of my life, I have forgotten what FREEDOM means.
At only 8 years old, I was forced to become an adult. Sickness almost took my mother, and I watched my family make the move that would change the rest of my life. But I grew up, I took responsibility, and I worked to become someone that my parents would be proud of.
Before I knew it, I had become more American than my American-born peers. I spoke the language, participated in the culture, I even dreamt in English. The strides I took in my academic life forced me to leave my peers behind - the children of immigrants, children who were just like me - for some reason, the system had decided to give me an opportunity that they would never have, because they too, did not belong.
After years of hard work, on March 31, 2005, I received a letter of acceptance. And as much as I wanted to celebrate, the realities sunk in. Although Harvard was "convinced that [I would] make important contributions during [my] college years and beyond," my parents and I were not so sure. How could I even go to a place like that? How could I fly across the country if I couldn't even drive? How could I excel in a land that had made its point so clear - I DID NOT BELONG.
Somehow, I arrived in Cambridge that fall, ready to earn my place in the class of 2009.
Somehow, I pushed through the guilt of having left my peers behind, and I promised myself that one day I would go back to get them.
Somehow, I tried to forget about the responsibilities I had left at home; I wanted to be a good example for my siblings; I wanted to make sure that they would NEVER have to experience the feeling of being told that their hard work meant NOTHING.
Somehow, I suppressed the feeling of desperation as I knew I was all alone, still in prison, still in silence.
And with these thoughts in mind, I lived day by day.
I sat with my classmates in the Science Center, taking notes about the central dogma. I completed every freshman's rite of passage and became an editor of the Harvard Crimson. I wrote paper after paper, finished problem set after problem set. I volunteered with PBHA, trying to help those that needed it most. I was randomly assigned to a House. I changed my concentration multiple times and had several crises about whether I should write a thesis. JUST LIKE THEM. But as senior year approached, none of these things mattered, because degree or no degree, I did not belong.
My final year at Harvard returned that familiar feeling of desperation. As my fellow classmates went off to law school, med school, grad school; as they accepted fellowships abroad; as they moved to New York to pursue their dreams; as they celebrated their greatest accomplishments to date, all I could do was watch. I watched as I received my degree. I remained calm. And I sat in silence, forcing myself to believe that someday, my day would come.
And I have sat in silence until today.
My friends tell me that silence is better than a detention camp. That silence is better than deportation. But they don't know prison as well as I do.
Today I take control of my life, because I have nothing to lose, and a real life to gain.
Today I ask for the opportunity to be able to WORK HARD in the place that I call home.
Today I stand here with you in solidarity, ready to embrace more than the culture and the language of OUR country - I stand here ready to embrace the ideals, and the belief that in this land of self-evident truths, I too, am entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Let March 21st be our shot heard around the world. Because it is time that we advocate for human rights in our own home. It is time that our siblings, our children, our peers can have a taste of freedom.
Let's reclaim our human right to live. Let's make 2010 OUR time.Anonymous Undocumented Harvard Student #2 (21 March 2010)