There are over 25,000 undocumented students in California and many are denied access to higher education upon completing high school. Amanda Wah, Liberty Hill intern and current student at Loyola Marymount University, guest blogs on our brown bag lunch discussion Underground Undergrads: Immigrant Students and Their Struggle to Create Political Change. Liberty Hill was one of the first organizations in the nation to provide scholarships to undocumented students in higher education.
Today, three AB 540 students brought the room to tears sharing their stories about growing up in America only to discover they were undocumented and the doors that have closed because of it.
One of the students, Fabiola, was a straight A student in high school, took AP classes and did everything that students are supposed to do if they want to go to college. Going into her senior year, she thought that all of these were opportunities open, but once she realized she was considered undocumented, the opportunities quickly disappeared. Well qualified to attend a college in Texas, Fabiola remembers calling a college admissions officer hoping to get more information. The admissions officer responded, “This is a legal institution and you’re not. So please don’t call us again.”
I was shocked that someone could say something so belittling to another human being. While she has had many doors slammed in her face, her story, dedication, and work ethic have gotten her to where she is today. Hoping to graduate in the spring of 2010 from UCLA, Fabiola recently spoke with Vice President Joe Biden and wants a change in legislation for not only her, but for others as well.
Today’s discussion made me think about my life in comparison to the student speakers' lives. In a way, we share a similar experience; college students trying to finish up school to get our degrees, but in many other ways, our experiences are different. Getting my driver’s license, registering to vote, and paying for college were all things that I never had to think twice about. For Fabiola and the other two student speakers, these basic rites of passage and financial aid were impossible because of their undocumented status. I can’t even begin to understand what it must feel like to strive for what some call the American dream and to have all of these greater social structures telling you, no.
Fabiola’s story is only one struggle of tens of thousands of students in California alone. To take action, go to Dream Activist and get involved! Buy their book Underground Undergrads, host a screening of Tam Tran's Lost & Found and spread the message that all students documented or not deserve the opportunity to higher education.