I hadn’t planned to get political up in here but I just finished another big deadline. And, I had post inauguration nightmares last night… so I’m going to get political up in here.
It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with the post-election world. I’ve seen things get really nasty on my Facebook page when I post things that I believe in. And, it makes me really sad. But nothing – and I mean NOTHING – makes me as sad as reading about the complete and utter fear that has filled the minds those beautiful children that I get to work with.
We have this group of scholars that we affectionately call the unicorns. They are our unicorns because they started their college and scholarship application process during the summer. They willingly showed up at school before it started to work on a long shot scholarship. They have written more essays that their peers. They’ve applied to schools all across the country. They have refused to accept the status quo or what people say is good enough for them. They worked so hard that I told my advisor that I wanted to be the final set of eyes on their November 1 applications. That way, if things didn’t work out, I knew that I had done everything I could to help their success.
Their November 1 applications were bright-eyed and optimistic. They talked about their dreams with the cavalier idealism that only seventeen-and-eighteen-year-olds can possess. They were excited about what the future holds. It was a beautiful time to be a college advisor.
For some of them, those early applications worked out. For others, we had to keep applying.
For the last month, I have been working with the unicorns exclusively. A dark, dark tone has settled over their applications. There was palpable desperation. A need to get out of here. A need to feel safe. A need to know that someone cares what happens to their lives. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s sad. It’s terrifying. And, it’s not okay.
People. Wake up. Regardless of how you feel about undocumented families, you should realize that it is inhumane to banish people into the shadows. You can try and take the “high ground”, but you need to know that the REAL reason they are here is because the U.S. government refuses to hold employers accountable for hiring them because we like cheap labor. I promise you – throw ONE white collar executive in jail for refusing to use an e-verify system, and you could end it… but the truth is that people don’t REALLY want that. And so we do nothing about it. DACA was a humane response to the problem. It wasn’t a pathway. It didn’t give them benefits. But, it allowed them to live without fear.
Instead of doing something about the problem, we banish people into the shadows. We force them to live like Anne Frank and her family did in under the nazi regime. We accept their tax dollars (and they pay a lot because most pay self employment tax rates), but we don’t provide them benefits. We justify to ourselves that it’s okay. That we’re doing them the favor. We have an entire group of people who live in constant fear, and we’ve decided that’s okay.
A few years ago, I worked with a student who told me stories of being terrified (at six-years-old) that immigration would show up at her elementary school and take her away. She told me stories of shaking in fear anytime she saw a uniformed officer at the grocery store. This student had earned a full scholarship to one of Dallas’ most prestigious private high schools… She commuted two hours each way for that education. She was extremely smart and very rational, but she lived in constant fear for herself and her family. She didn’t make the choice to come here, but she made the best of what was offered to her in hopes that it would stabilize her life.
A few weeks ago, I was visiting with one of my students who is a junior at one of our flagship universities (which she has entirely paid for with private scholarships). She told me about the heartbreaking conversation that she had with her little sister after the election. Her little sister called to ask if she would take care of her and let her live with her if something happened to mom and dad… and she had to explain that she wasn’t protected either. So now, the little sister, who is a U.S. citizen, is forced to live in fear of what happens if her parents are taken away.
And the cycle of fear continues.
As I read the following short answer this weekend, I was overcome with grief (again). This. This is a kid that we’re marginalizing right now. This is a kid that we’re saying doesn’t belong (while our president-elect brags about grabbing women by the you-know-what).
I have lived in the United States illegally for more than fourteen years. Fourteen years of living in fear that my whole family could be deported. Fourteen years of believing that I won’t be able to attend college because of my immigration status. Fourteen years of believing my efforts at school won’t count and that I will end up with a job that won’t fulfill my passion for helping others tell their stories.
Despite these fears, I try to see everything in a positive light. I refuse to let my fears define my outlook on life. I am not a criminal. I believe in hope. Dallas has given that to me; I was raised in a blue city in a big red state. Dallas provided me a sense of community and security and that’s what I want to contribute to [college]. I want to be an ally and advocate for others. From supporting women’s rights and protecting victims of sexual assault to helping tell the stories of those marginalized by society, I want to ensure that students like me receive the same opportunities afforded to their more privileged peers. I want to be a voice for change.
The thought of what happens to THIS KID is what gives me nightmares.