College while undocumented

By Emily Miller
May 9, 2019

Since 2016, the first year of Donald Trump’s electoral win, the conversation about undocumented immigrants has been overwhelming. For those seeking refuge and a better life here in America while not having documentation, this sparked a new level of fear.

When picturing an undocumented immigrant, for most people, this probably looks like a typical adult working day to day to provide for their families, much like most Americans. However, a lot of students in college are living undocumented and attend classes. The difference, however, comes from the struggles they go through to get to that point.

A junior at Cabrini University, Xochitl Juarez is an example of one of many students who have had to go through the process of obtaining higher education while living undocumented and without DACA status in America. Juarez recounts her experience as being eye opening in addition to being more difficult than the average student’s experience.

“It was a little hard for me because I started realizing things for myself.” Juarez said. “I remember the first thing that came up…was when they asked for my social security number. I asked my parents if I had one and they said no, so then I was like, is this okay? Do I need to stop now?”

Juarez talked extensively about the trouble she had while filling out different paperwork, especially regarding financial documents. In addition to not having some of the required information because of her legal status, she also had the added struggle of needing to translate everything into Spanish for her parents to understand. In a lot of cases, she would have to physically call admissions offices and send countless emails to apply.

“Many schools sent me emails telling me that the only way I could get into their school was if I fixed my status,” Juarez said. “At the time, there was no way for me to do that…then schools like Cabrini came with their own rules and said that they weren’t going to say no…they offered me scholarships and grants, it was really great to know that there was a school looking out for people like me.”

Despite Cabrini University offering admission and financial support, Juarez recalled a meeting she had with an admissions counselor where they told her that if ICE came looking for her, they were unable to do anything to help her. “It was shocking to hear that from someone at a school that had been so welcoming to me,” Juarez said. “At that point I felt very scared…but of course I hadn’t expected the school to be able to do anything.”

The same year that Juarez began her freshman year at Cabrini University, 2016, the Center on Immigration was also established. While Juarez has never needed the assistance of the center, she does feel as though it is a helpful resource and a more than viable option if she ever finds herself in need of help.

Image result for cabrini university center on immigration
Director of the Center on Immigration, Abel Rodriguez

“The Center on Immigration has three main focuses; research, advocacy and education,” Jennifer Bulcock, assistant director of the Center of Immigration, said. “We work with students who have migrant status…we try to help them [students] navigate through the system the best we can, and support them with any kind of programming that we have. We do have some legal representation…but it is very limited.”

Bulcock disclosed hopeful plans for more legal representation for the center, but mentioned that this is a long-term goal. A lot of what the center does is to help those who are undocumented go through the process as easily as citizens. This includes financial support despite not being able to directly make an impact.

“Most students require some form of [government] aid to go to college, and if you’re undocumented, you have access to none of that,” Bulcock said. “Additionally, if you are undocumented, you have the added stress of never knowing what the future holds.”

Both Bulcock and Juarez touched on the subject of fear in recent years following Trump’s election win. 2016 was both Juarez’s first year attending college, and the establishment of the center. The political climate  has provided ample stress for those who were already living cautiously, and now must live in fear.

“ICE knows that we’re here,” Juarez said. “At any point they could come for my parents, or my brothers, and it would be just like that. They would be gone.”

Bulcock assures that students facing this fear have the utmost support from the school and from the center. Juarez feels as though it is best to live one day at a time, and she is grateful that she can pass her knowledge on to her younger brothers to better prepare them for the world we are living in. Both subjects feel as though Cabrini has been the best place to go through this process, and the University will continue its efforts to do so.


Emily Miller

Emily Miller | Copy/ Web Editor, Loquitur 2018

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