IAN HEDGES, News Editor
This is a profile of an undocumented student who attends Beloit College. This student is one of several undocumented immigrants on campus, and is one of the few who is willing to speak about these issues. It serves as a reminder that there are challenges and forms of discrimination against a group of students in our community that are uknown.
Round Table: What motivated your family to come to the U.S.?
Student: It’s quite difficult to get a job in Mexico. Before we came over with my mother, there was no freaking way that she was able to get a job in Mexico to support two kids. No one comes over here as a vacation—when you are crossing over, you are starting a new life. There are better opportunities here. You know that you have a better chance at life than living over there.
RT: What was it like to apply to college?
S: It was difficult. To summarize for you: I was in a scholarship program that guided me through. I had a guidance counselor that told me what would better suit us [colleges that allow undocumented students]. I couldn’t apply to many schools. You have to apply for so many because even with the schools who allow undocumented students, it is still hard to get in. So in the end, I ended up applying to….ten schools. Sure enough, I got into three. As to filling out the financial aid forms, it was also difficult.There’s no real way to apply for financial aid as an undocumented student. You do have to submit a College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile, but I had to turn into the International Student CSS profile.
RT: Have you told many people on campus?
S: After a while, I stopped caring. I saw that it didn’t make a difference that people knew here. Back home, I lived in a town that specifically installed a law that allows any type of immigrant to be stopped [on the street]. A lot of people tend to be touchy about identifying themselves outside of academia.
RT: Do you feel like there’s a community of undocumented students?
S: I don’t feel there’s a connection among undocumented students. I feel people are on their own. There’s interest to start a community, but not enough to start one for those who benefit the most from it.
RT: Have you ever felt any discrimination?
S: Not necessarily. I haven’t heard anything. I hear from people what other people have said.
RT: Are you afraid of the job market after college?
S: Yes and no. I’m kind of winging it at the moment. What’s motivating me to stay in school is self-fulfillment, and not the monetary value of a degree. I feel like I am developing knowledge independently. I enjoy the idea of acquiring more knowledge; it gives me something to live for.
RT: Has there been any moment when you were afraid to be discovered?
S: You learn to accept the fear, at least in my case. There’s a smart way to handle it and a dumb way to handle it—and that’s not cooperating. By cooperating, you don’t do anything stupid that puts you in a more vulnerable position to be deported. If I were to be found out, I would go straight to the media. One of the things I have learned based on observation, if you are put under immigratory probation, one of the first things you do is go to the media because if you have a clean record, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not want the bad rap. They don’t want to be the bad guys—sending good people back to their countries.
RT: If there was one thing that you could say about combating stereotypes, what would you say?
S: Not all Mexicans are illegals. Not every brown person is an undocumented immigrant.
RT: Do you one day hope to be a U.S. citizen?
S: I do. There are a lot of benefits that come with it. I’d sure as hell love to be able to do some things I am not able to do. I can’t travel outside of the country. I can’t get a job. I can’t join the armed forces. I can’t participate in many of the programs offered by the school, and I can’t participate in any research programs because they’re all funded by the U.S. government.
RT: Are you upset that you can’t vote?
S: Yeah, and what it comes down to is that I can bring awareness to the candidates about the ideas that interest me. But because I can’t make the mark on that paper, it’s less of an interest to me. I don’t have a voice.