Anonymous Undocumented Harvard Student #1
This story was read on March 10, 2010, during our coming out event at Harvard.
Harvard, Class of 2010
My parents met in the local pharmacy of a small town in El Salvador. Four years later, I was born. At the time, my older brother was a toddler. It was also the same time that my father began his journey to the north - out of necessity - because he wanted a better life for out family.
I don't remember seeing my dad more than a handful of times as I was growing up. The cardboard silhouette of father and son I made in school for Fathers' Day always went undelivered. Despite this, there was always food on our table, payments for school, and toys on Christmas.
When I was five, my dad began making plans to bring us to the United States so that he could be reunited with his wife and see his children grow. We made the trip and lived in a small apartment just outside of a LA. My brother and I quickly enrolled in school and began learning English. I made this apartment my home. I continued my life protected from the violence and dangers of the ghetto surrounding me, and otherwise led a normal life. I got deeply involved in school activities, sports, books, and excelled in my classes. Immigration issues were all topics that reached me, but I was not directly affected.
It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I began to feel the effects of my status as an illegal immigrant. It was not until I turned 18 and everyone around me discussed the excitement of voting, that I truly knew in my mind that I was forbidden from it. This was the same year my father taught me how to drive. Although it gave me huge discomfort, I would have to drive without a driver's license. This was the same year I learned my life did not exist in the government's records.
That year everything I did, from applying to college to securing financial aid, my status as an illegal immigrant began to shadow over me. On scholarships I intended to apply for, the term "US citizen or legal resident" left a bitter taste in my mouth. This was difficult for me, but I had not lost hope. What kept my fire and faith burning was the knowledge of an undocumented classmate who had graduated the year before me and had somehow been awarded a full scholarship by a prestigious university.
One morning, as my father drove me to school, I told him about this. I knew he had been just as worried about paying for college as I had. There, in his old and exhausted work van full of painting equipment, with paint stains on the walls that matched those on his jeans and torn shoes, he looked at me and said "sure mijo, go for it, you know mama and I support you in whatever you want to do". I could recognize the tone of hopelessness in his voice, the tone of disbelief and fear of disappointment for yet another unfulfilled promise of hope.
I had high hopes for myself and continued to tell my dad about these opportunities despite the hopelessness I sensed from him. The more we talked about it, the more his fear of disappointment turned into skepticism bordering on hope. When I was accepted into several prestigious colleges with generous offers of financial aid, his skepticism disappeared. Hope in a dream that seemed too distant to reach actually came through for me. But the struggle continues, and this is exactly what the Dream Act is about. It is about spreading opportunity to the many undocumented youth in this country so that they can fulfill their potential.
Although this issue affects me very personally, I know that I experience only a fraction of the injustice that the undocumented youth in this country are exposed to. There are cases much worse than mine. Many students are too discouraged to even apply to college, for fear that their immigration status will not allow it for one reason or another. Some students apply to college but have to decline once they are accepted since they cannot afford, and do not even have the option to apply for financial aid. This places many scholarships, internships and other opportunities beyond the grasp of outstanding undocumented students, for reasons unrelated to merit. These are students that cannot fulfill their potential, for something they never had a say in. This sad reality is a part of our life in the United States today. Our struggle continues through the fight to pass the Dream Act.Anonymous Undocumented Harvard Student #1 - (21 March 2010)