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The Undocumented Dream

When I was younger I didn’t think that being undocumented could affect me later on in life.

What type of society do we live in which I’m not able to have the same opportunities as others, in which my future is unsure, my immigration status puts a limit to what I can and can’t do? If you aren’t a permanent resident or a citizen of the United States you have to work far harder in order to reach your dreams.

I was originally born in Hidalgo, Mexico in 1997. Like many other kids, I did not have a choice in coming to the United States. At the age of 3 my parents decided that it would be best if I came to San Francisco to live with them. And if you were to ask me where I was born I’d say here ,San Francisco, not because I’m ashamed of being Mexican but because I’ve lived here for as long as I can remember.

When I was younger I didn’t think that being undocumented could affect me later on in life. It wasn’t until a couple days ago when reality hit me about the limited opportunities we immigrants have here. At school our college counselor started a scholarship program where we students can check out different types of scholarships we are eligible for. As I was looking through the paper, I realized that most of them required a proof of citizenship. In that moment I couldn’t help but cry. I was overwhelmed with emotions. My anger took over, I told myself that there was no point in trying and I should simply give up. Although this shouldn’t be an excuse to give up, it makes it harder on students like me. According to Closing The Gap, “Only 7,000-13,000 undocumented students enrolled in college throughout the United States. That means only 5-10% undocumented high school graduates continue their education into college.” In addition, according to the same source, “undocumented students are banned from applying to certain universities and ineligible for most student aid. Which explains why college is financially out of reach for most undocumented students regardless of their performance.” It’s astonishing to see that we have to work harder and we still don’t get the same opportunities. Whose fault is it that these numbers are low? The undocumented student who is trying to seek opportunities? Or the system that makes sure we don’t succeed? Although I do believe in personal responsibility and the people having control over their future, there is a system we must all confront.

Investing money in the education of undocumented students is viewed as a toll on the American government. According to Judicial Watch, “There are an estimated 1.5 million school-aged illegal immigrants in the United States and the government spends an estimated $12 billion annually to educate them. The biggest chunks are spent by California ($7.7 billion) and Texas ($3.9 billion), where the situation has become a public education crisis with no end in sight…Besides spending nearly $6,000 a year to educate each student, the districts also spend more than $1.5 million annually to pay bilingual teachers extra because they are hard to find and have additional credentials.” The government talks about “wasting billions” on educating immigrants but doesn’t talk about the money spent annually to keep them in jail. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) states, “Criminal aliens — non-citizens who commit crimes — are growing threat to public safety and national security, as well as a drain on our scarce criminal justice resources. In 1980, our federal and state prisons housed fewer than 9,000 criminal aliens. Today, about 55,000 criminal aliens account for more than one-fourth of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prisons, and there are about 297,000 criminal aliens incarcerated in state and local prisons”. Yet as reported by The National Association of State Budget Officers, “The Vera Institute of Justice estimates among 40 states surveyed, the average, full cost for states to incarcerate an individual for one year is $31,286.” Let me get this straight: immigrants taking up a huge amount of money from the government for a good and secure future is bad, so let’s not help them out in any way, and instead spend on incarcerating them all. Is that what this is? This unjust system spends a huge amount of time, money, and energy to keep immigrants from succeeding in this country, but refuses to help them become productive members of society.

Seeking a life full of opportunities without violence and poverty, families emigrate from their homeland to the United States. Not having any money with them, they make the decision to leave their loved ones behind in search of a better life for their kids in the land of opportunities. Sadly, the reality of this situation is that these kids will grow up with an obstacle they won’t face until they start thinking of what colleges they will attend and how they will afford it. Although I am lucky enough to be receiving my residency in a few months, there are kids my age who won’t ever get that same opportunity.