Judge me by my actions, not my citizenship
By Meital Caplan
September 5, 2017
This OneGoal alumna author is being kept anonymous not because she feels ashamed or scared about sharing her immigration status, but because we live in a time where her protection is not guaranteed. This story is not the exception, but rather reflects the obstacles, fears and the combined love of country and family that the majority of immigrants currently protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) hold.
I am a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The journey to obtain a college education has been a challenging one with many reroutes as I faced the realities of not being able to afford my dream schools or to even pursue my dream career of becoming a pediatrician. As an undocumented student, I don’t get any federal financial aid so I struggle with balancing school and work just to be able to keep taking classes.
But I consider myself a fighter. I fight for what I want until I earn it.
Back in my senior year of high school, reality really sunk in when I realized that my immigration status left me with bleak prospects for obtaining a college education. I learned that I would have to cover everything, from tuition to school supplies to basic needs, on my own. My parents, immigrants too, struggled to make ends meet even with the financial help from my siblings. Through hard work and perseverance, I was accepted to college, earned the means to pay, and became a college student. Still, receiving a quality education at a university is challenging when you have many other responsibilities and worries that fall well outside the norm of what’s expected from a college student.
Through my fight to beat the odds of being a female illegal immigrant raised in the south side of Chicago, who statistics show is typically not bound to graduate college, I have met wonderful people who I consider family. Without these individuals my fight would be much harder and almost impossible. They provide me with advice, a space to vent and unrelenting support that I can’t find anywhere else. I was blessed to have people who look after me and help with as much as they can. With them, I am ready to win this fight and graduate this spring.
Graduating college, however, is not the end of a longer struggle because I am still considered an illegal alien.
Being undocumented in a country where racial tension is at the forefront forced me to grow up much faster than my peers as I, like many others, experience racism and hate on a daily basis because of my status. Up until now, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has allowed me to remain in the U.S. and continue studying but there’s not a single day that I don’t live with the fear of my family getting deported and not ever being able to see them again. And now with DACA gone, I am constantly on edge thinking about the possibility that I can lose everything I’ve been fighting for just because of a decision that I never made.
I was too young to even remember coming to the United States. This is my home, not Mexico, yet I am treated as an outsider in the very country where I have spent almost my whole life. I carry these thoughts through the 12-15 hour days of work and school, working through breakdowns where I feel like I can’t breathe due to the pressure to keep a perfect image to the people around me. I am not afraid to say I am undocumented, I am afraid of people’s reactions and the consequences that come with it.
I like to believe that one day I will be able to live in a world without discrimination. I am working towards the day my achievements speak for themselves instead of my citizenship.
Until that day, my journey will continue on and will have many more battles to endure and goals to conquer. For those in a similar situation as mine, I beg you not to give up. I’ve learned that hard work paired with strong belief is all one needs to overcome even the strongest adversity. Let’s fight together!
WHAT TO READ NEXT: OneGoal Director of Teacher Support David Blancas shares his story on how removing DACA could uproot his family.