In honor of National Coming Out Week: Undocumented and Unafraid we are featuring stories of API dreamers. The DREAM Act would provide undocumented students that arrived before the age of 16 in the US a pathway to legalization.
The fact that I’m an undocumented student.
My whole life has been fueled by this fact.
Ever since I immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, my number one priority has been to do my best to excel in academics. My parents had told me that our immigration statuses were complicated and were to be ignored. My sole focus, as I began to believe, was to go to school, make friends, learn English, and get A’s. In fact, that’s what I did and I was allowed to temporarily forget about what it meant to be without proper documentation in the United States. I had hoped that someday and somehow, my hard work in school would be the savior of all my problems. By the time I had entered high school, I had mastered the English language as well as any American teenager. Still, a perfect academic record could not shield me from reality.
-When all of my friends were first getting driver’s licenses and driving cars to school: I couldn’t afford a car.
-When all of my friends flaunted their IDs at the box office to watch 300 and Superbad: I didn’t get a chance to make one yet.
-When all of my friends told me to fill out my FAFSA: I’ll do it before the deadline.
These were my excuses. When topics of financial aid, work, or ID’s ever came up, I stayed silent and hoped that nobody talked to me; that noone pointed the conversation my way. I hated making excuses and I was afraid that my usual attempt to cover up would fail. One of these times, I thought, I would choke up, and everyone would know. But it never happened, because I made sure to stay away from the law. My dad, as good of a driver as he is, has gotten stopped several times for minor traffic violations. Sitting in the backseat, watching as the policeman lit up the car with probing flashlights, I would be gripped with fear. My arms and legs froze and I made sure not to give the cops any reason for suspicion. The only sound in the air would be that of my heart beating faster and faster trying to burst out of my chest.
My whole life has been consumed by this fact. I was afraid.
As it turns out, though, my step into higher education at UC Berkeley became nothing less than life changing. Through no strength of my own, my eyes were allowed to be opened to new cultures and new groups. I met other non-citizen students, allies, supporters, and considered for the first time in my life “coming out” to even the closest of friends. I learned of hardships that were more extreme than mine and of the activism many are doing to try to change and absolve those challenges. I realize that there are always opportunities out there for me to reach for–I just need to grab it. I wanted to be a part of that movement; to be one of the aspiring DREAMers. I want to be able to use my degree to support myself and my family when I graduate. I will pursue my passion for medicine. I want to put a face to my story and I want to show everyone why I, too, belong here, in America.
So Here I Stand. I am undocumented and am now unafraid.