Undocumented students publicly discuss life
Four undocumented students stepped behind a podium and tearfully shared their fears, hopes and experiences Thursday.
“I was born in Mexico and was brought to the United States when I was eight-years-old,” said Adan Torres, senior accounting major.
Torres, who has been active in the Corps of Cadet and Aggie Band, was one of the four panelist “dreamers” who shared their experiences during the “Meet an Aggie DREAMer” event organized by The Council for Minority Student Affairs (CMSA).
Torres said he was eight when he and his family fled from Mexico. They were forced to live in a three-bedroom house with three other families — with multiple family members living in a single room.
“I just remember my mom saying to pack my bags because we were going on a vacation. When I asked her how long, she said she didn’t know, and then one night we crossed,” Torres said.
Jose Luis, senior education major, described a “dreamer” as a person who qualifies for the Dream Act, federal legislation that would grant citizenship to undocumented residents who attend college or serve two years in the military. The Dream Act passed the House of Representatives in 2010, but failed in the Senate.
Luis said by speaking at the panel he hoped to enlighten people about what it means it be undocumented in the U.S.
“We want to be able to put a face to the issue of undocumented students,” Luis said. “Usually whenever somebody thinks of an undocumented person they think of a criminal, they think of a liar, someone who is in jail, someone who is a bad member of society, but we are ready to put a human side to the issue — there’s a member of the Fighting Texas Aggie Band, a student with a 4.0, someone who wants to be a teacher. These are all good people. ”
Luis said that approximately 160 A&M students were classified as undocumented minorities in the spring semester. He added that being a student at one of the most conservative universities in the nation has been rough, but he is proud of who he is and continues to remain hopeful.
“I was shot twice in both of my arms after leaving a country of violence and after my dad abused us everyday physically, emotionally, spiritually,” Luis said. “I want to give back. I have been offered jobs internationally already — France and Italy — and I don’t want to go anywhere I want to give to the one place that has given so much to me and that’s the United States.”
Co-founder of CSMA, Tailandia, class of 2010, said her dream is to be able to teach students at a public institution. While she has received her teaching certifications, she is currently unemployed. Tailandia spoke under the condition that her last name not be disclosed.
“The act passed in 2001 and I graduated from high school in 2006, so I always knew it’s something that was going to happen but I am disappointed,” Tailandia said. “All of those schools told me they would hire me if they could, but they can’t. I know I would have a job and I know that I am capable of it but I can’t — they can’t legally hire me.”
A variation of the Dream Act has passed in 12 states, including Texas. The law allows undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition.
“There’s a lot of dreamers who are scared to share their story — especially at A&M so we’re just trying to provide a voice for them,” Tailandia said.
After sharing their stories, Luis ended the panel on an emotional note. He recalled receiving an email from an incoming freshman student who was worried about applying to A&M because of his undocumented status.
“A guy just came up to me and asked me for my name. After I told him, he replied you’re the guy who helped me come to college,” Luis said. “And for that reason alone, if we don’t come out and risk everything, were not going to gain anything.”