Share your experience

If you are an undocumented student and would like to share your own personal experience please submit a journal entry below.

Tell us about what barriers or challenges you have experienced because of your immigration status. What are your fears and hopes? How does being undocumented impact your experience with education?


  1. admin
    Posted January 9, 2010 at 11:50 am | #

    Here is a response I received from Sofia:

    I guess I am one of the millions who anguish about the “what will be”.

    Currently a junior in high school I try best to have the confidence that something WILL happen in 2010 and that I will be one of the lucky few that would benefit right away from the Dream Act because of my age. I think about it every single day, I think about me getting closer to 18 and what that means legally. If I reach that point I have to go back, I can’t risk the 10 year penalty and not seeing my parents or my sister again for so long. So for me it is urgent, it is a matter of NOW because there is no later. Possibly I risk not graduating from high school and that just adds a whole different set of worries. Like everyone I am just terrified.

    I came to the U.S. when I was 8 years old from Mexico. We arrived in Saint Louis and at that time there was very little Hispanic presence so learning English was sitting in a classroom without anyone in the building speaking Spanish. I suppose you learn quickly that way. I just always assumed that people could just move to different countries. That it was just like moving to a new house. I never felt any different. I am light skinned and most people really don’t realize that I am not American. My parents went to college in Mexico and both are dentists. I always say that necessity humbles everyone and that certainly was the case with my family. I remember both of them picking up on odd jobs like taxi driving and selling spices. So my dad went to the U.S. with a worker visa to work with a landscaping company leaving us behind. Shortly after that we came with him. I always remember talking to him and him telling me how beautiful everything was there. Oh he would mention the trees and how everything was so green there and clean! It was the American Dream and in history class I can relate when all the promises of a better land were told to entice the Europeans. I know their desire, I was there too. I wanted the green, I wanted the trees, the colorful parks, I wanted the safe and quiet neighborhoods he described. And so it was very true, because this city is a beautiful city.

    The story unfolds, my dad working in landscaping, cutting grass everyday and my mom working as “cleaning lady”. They gave up their career, one that after so many years of study bore no fruit in my native country, to give us a better future, and they do that every single day; it is a complete sacrifice. I try to remind my friends as directly as I can that the opportunities they hold are completely undeserved. That hard work and education sometimes doesn’t get you far in other places.

    Maybe if more people realized that they would have more sympathy. Even logically you see many immigrants showing an interest in their community, paying taxes, and enriching it culturally. I know that such is the case with my parents and family friends. The immigrant parent gives everything up; they know that the future they seek is not for themselves but for their children. They are absolutely content in knowing that at least those whom they love will rejoice after their struggle. I think that every parent hopes that their children will live a better life than what they had. It is only natural.

    I guess I just seek for that sacrifice not to go to waste. I think I have done everything on my part so far. I have taken every A.P. class and Honors class at my high school. You will see me leading the bi-monthly National Honor Society meeting with 3 other peers. You will see me covered in mud after a Cross-Country race, sharing in the same victory or loss that my team endured.

    I am involved with a city leadership program (about 4 or 5 kids from each high school in the city and county). I obviously love my community; they have enriched me and formed who I am and with this program I get the chance to give back .To learn more about it, to see its people and love them further by having the chance to enhance it. I am also very aware of the blessings this nation has given me and feel such gratitude and a duty to give back. There are relationships you establish within your youth that really give you an anchor for the rest of your life. I can’t imagine going back and leaving this whole life story behind forever since it is my whole life story.

    I’ve worked so hard up to this point, worked alongside my peers, but at the end of the day it will come down to those nine magic numbers.

    All I am left with is a prayer that something will happen and that God has good things waiting for immigrant that every day lives in fear and within the shadow, waiting for its voice to be finally heard.

  2. admin
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 5:10 pm | #

    Another post I received from Lorena in Illinois:

    I am currently a sophomore at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign pursuing a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering. I owe this all to my parents whom without I would have the courage to be writing this. They have sacrificed so much for me and I will not let their sacrifice go to waste. Because of all they have done, I refuse to give up.
    Growing up I have always known that I was undocumented. Yet that did not stop me from dreaming that it would someday change. At first I hoped it would change in time for me to get a license, then in time to apply for college, now I hope for it to change in time for graduation so I can get a job. I have always been a top student, putting school first and expecting the best from myself. College was never a question. I knew that I wanted to go and that I would. Naturally I tried to live life avoiding the thought of my status and it worked very well. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian community where I was one of very few Hispanics. To this day I have not told anyone about my status except for my current boyfriend. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself and I always thought that by the time it could really affect me, there would be an immigration law passed allowing me to get my ‘papers.’ When I turned 16 all my friends were getting their licenses and I could not join in that experience even though I had taken driver’s education right there next to them. That did not stop me from driving though. I know it is a risk that I brought upon myself, but I was not afraid. My parents bought me a car and I took part in the American teenager experience. When I turned 18 my permit expired. My parents didn’t want me to drive under the same constant fear that they drive with everyday, so I got a legal Michigan license. That was my first fear conquered.
    Next came college. My parents expected me to get scholarships to pay for college, but it never crossed our minds that lacking legal status would hinder my chances of attaining them. I continued to make myself oblivious to the fact that I might not be able to pay for college and applied to top engineering universities, UIUC being my number one choice. The acceptance letter came, I accepted, but I still needed to find a way to pay close to 30 thousand dollars for one year’s tuition and room and board. Without surprise my parents came to the rescue by taking out a 20 thousand dollar loan and my dad taking up a second job. So the day came, I moved into the dorms and again tried to ignore a simple fact about myself that set me apart from the majority of my peers, yet keeping in mind the sacrifice that got me there. Now in my second year of college my parents were able to pay for tuition with tax money and savings and without having to take out a loan. As much of an accomplishment as this is, I know that if I would have been able to apply for financial aid or scholarships I would not be risking my parents health and well being by attending college.
    The barriers that I face now are some that affect my chances of getting a job after college even if I have legal status by then. The chances of attaining a job straight out of college are greatly increased by having research, study abroad, and internship experience. None of which I can achieve without being legal. Although the thought that once I graduate I still might not have the status that allows me to put my degree to work haunts me every day, I try to not let it get to me. It is definitely hard, but if I could give one piece of advice to other undocumented students that’s what it would be. I have thought about what I would do if the day of graduation comes and I still don’t have legal status. I have thought about possibly moving to Mexico, exercising my degree there while at the same time applying for a visa to work in the US. It would be very hard to leave my family and move to a country I don’t know, but I would if that is what it takes. I have also thought about taking my boyfriend up on his offer of postponing our big summer church wedding and just marrying at the courthouse so we can begin the process of me becoming legal. Although that seems like the perfect solution, I am very hesitant about it. I love my boyfriend so much and I want our wedding to be special, not a means for me to stay in this country. Yet this situation is still 2 years away, and I will deal with it when it presents itself. Right now I am focusing on my schoolwork, making the best of out of my life in college, and showing my parents how much I love them and appreciate all they have done.
    I know many don’t share my experience, and by reading the situations other are in, I consider myself very lucky. My parents and I came to the United States when I was just one year old. They came to provide a better life for me and they have. They have worked very hard since the day they got here and from that hard work they have provided me with things that even some legal Americans don’t have, and I don’t take that for granted. If I had the choice I would not have my life any other way. If I had not been an undocumented student I would not be the person I am today. I have learned how far unconditional love for a child can go, to appreciate everything I have, and to have compassion for everyone in this world. When the day comes that I am finally a US citizen I want to share my story to show that attaining your dream is possible with hard work and perseverance.

  3. admin
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:07 am | #

    Read about how Kennesaw State University student and Mexican immigrant, Jessica Colotl, faces deportation after being arrested for driving without a license in Georgia.

  4. admin
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:18 am | #

    To hear more voices of undocumented youth across the country and to learn more about legislation that attempts to give students an individual path to citizenship check out Papers the Movie.

  5. admin
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:27 am | #

    After signing one of the most controversial immigration laws last month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signs a bill to end ethnic studies curriculum in Tucson.

  6. admin
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:33 am | #

    Read what people are writing and sharing about the Arizona immigration law brought to you from The New York Times Conversations page.

  7. admin
    Posted May 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm | #

    For a good reference about the current immigration debate check out NBC’s A NATION DIVIDED feature page.

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