I am undocumented and unafraid. That is the motto of the undocumented immigrant youth throughout the nation. By “coming out of the shadows,” undocumented folks like myself empower ourselves by not hiding a central part of our identity. This idea of “coming out” was borrowed from the gay rights movement. I have no papers and I am not afraid to tell people what my realities are, the situation I live through every single second of my life until immigration reform happens. Minniejean Brown-Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine of the Civil Rights Movement, once told me: “Your personal story is your most powerful weapon. You have the power to change minds.”
With such a volatile issue such as immigration reform, undocumented youth like myself have been telling our stories to show the larger population that the policies in place are not working. The immigration laws that we have in place are broken, broken, broken. People ask me, “Why don’t you just legalize yourself?” It’s because I’m a masochist. I like living like a second class citizen who lives in constant fear of deportation. No… I’m just kidding. There is no current way for me to legalize even if I wanted to. My mother brought me here without papers so that I could have a better life and I do not blame her. She just wants the best for her son. And I am grateful for that. Now it is my turn to play my part to make sure that her dream of having me graduate becomes a reality.
When I transferred to NDNU last semester, I was unsure of how I would tackle telling my story to the larger student body. I am flamboyantly out of the shadows. I like to tell people my story of being undocumented when I get a chance. Initially I only told a few friends on this campus about my story in the very beginning. That was until I had a presentation for one of my classes and I picked immigration as my topic. I remember that presentation clearly. I told the story of how the policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) came to be. Then I dropped the shocker! I told the class, “I am undocumented.” I saw a few surprised faces, and I don’t blame them. I suppose that was the first time some folks met an undocumented person and I am definitely not a stereotypical undocumented immigrant. I was a student just like the rest of the class.
After that particular coming out, I shared my story with one of my professors and what I do for the immigrant community. I was the Outreach and Advocacy Committee Co-Chair for ASPIRE, Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education and the Educator for Fair Consideration’s (E4FC), which holds educational presentations throughout the Bay Area. She told me to share my story at the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement. When I did share my story, I felt like I hit a jackpot. With all of the work I do for immigration rights, I felt like I finally found an outlet that will help me develop and grow. Immigration rights is a social justice issue and the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center recognizes that. I talked to Jim McGarry, the interim director of the center, and Amy Jobin, the director of the Center for Spirituality, and they just gave me a whole lot of love. They supported what I do and helped me get more students get involved in immigration rights.
This month, on January 19 last week, I held a presentation at UC Berkeley for E4FC’s Educator Conference. It was a conference aimed towards providing resources to educators and allies on how to support undocumented students on their pursuit towards higher education. There more than 500 attendees from all over the Bay Area and out-of-state institutions. Jim and Amy were able to bring a bunch of students and some NDNU staff to the conference. From what I heard from E4FC’s Outreach Manager, NDNU brought the most people to the conference. I think that’s a testament of how committed Notre Dame de Namur University is to supporting undocumented people like me. I like that. This kind of support is uplifting to the spirit and it dissipates my bouts of self-doubt of being able to finish college.
The support from educators and allies here at NDNU validates why we need immigration reform. Undocumented students like me are tired of waiting for politicians to dictate when we can continue on with our lives. What folks like me want is a normal life without fear of deportation and to be able to fully contribute back to our society. Immigration reform is now a priority for the Obama administration and that’s what I’ll be fighting for this year. Comprehensive Immigration Reform will happen and I will be fighting for it with educators and allies from NDNU by my side. I am sure of it.