A GoFundMe was created for the immigration fees of an undocumented Cal Poly engineering graduate student. The fundraiser’s goal is $11,000. So far, $2,523 has been raised.
This student immigrated to the United States from Mexico at the age of thirteen. Now, he has an opportunity to pursue legal status as a permanent United States resident through employment sponsorship.
“There’s so much uncertainty. The financial uncertainty and the potential of being deported at any moment,” the student said. “It’s been extremely challenging and a month to month, year by year journey.”
The student said he is grateful to adjust his status, however, there are hefty fees that accompany this process.
“I’ve been working closely with an attorney, but there is a significant cost that comes with immigration fees, legal fees and government fees,” the student said. “This money is going to fees that I simply have no control over.”
The student began his journey at Cal Poly in 2015 and said his journey of finding success at Cal Poly has been unconventional. Throughout his time at Cal Poly, the student has funded his own education without access to federal aid, loans, grants or scholarships and found sources of income without a work permit.
Unlike undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, undocumented individuals without DACA status do not have work authorization.
An executive order signed by former President Barack Obama introduced DACA on June 15, 2012, according to Mustang News.
DACA applicants receive both a Social Security number and a work permit and must reapply every two years, according to the University of California, Berkeley.
Undocumented individuals without DACA status do not have a Social Security number or work permit.
The student said he was surprised by the lack of resources for undocumented students at Cal Poly. The student said he remembered visiting UC and other CSU campuses and finding a variety of resources.
The student said many Cal Poly faculty and staff members did not understand the circumstances of an undocumented student.
“It was shocking to come to a school where no one really knew what you needed to succeed, but still expected you to succeed despite extreme obstacles,” the student said.
The student said he has faced discrimination on campus due to his legal status. There are many misconceptions about undocumented immigrants, including being viewed as criminals, according to the student.
“The discrimination has been huge, from comments by my classmates to the microaggressions by my professors about illegal aliens,” the student said. “I look back at myself and say, ‘Wow, this is the first impression people have of me, despite me working hard.’”
Recent business graduate Cecilia Solorio created this fundraiser and said securing a job post-graduation is an accomplishment every student thinks about. However, many undocumented students do not have the same access to job opportunities, according to Solorio.
“It is the idea that your existence is not allowed, even though you are contributing to society,” Solorio said. “You’re going to have an extra layer of hard work and creativity while not having access to these resources.”
The student said many documented people, for example, believe undocumented students can apply for food stamps and welfare to make ends meet. These programs, however, are federally funded and not accessible for undocumented immigrants.
“I figure out how to pay rent for the next month, and that’s good enough,” the student said. “There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with it, including supporting my family back home.”
Comparative ethnic studies junior Manmit Chahal said the American Dream is not accessible to all students. This divide is evident between undocumented students and documented students, according to Chahal.
Chahal said many undocumented students enter the United States as young children, unaware of their status. As adults applying for college grants, scholarships and jobs, many undocumented students become aware of their status for the first time.
The student said in addition to managing the responsibilities of a college student, he carefully sought allyship and resources on campus. These allies include people who are empathetic, understanding or come from mixed status families, according to the student.
The student has also found allies by attending various meetings and workshops, fostering a relationship of trust throughout the year.
“It is finding who you can disclose your situation to that won’t expose you, shame you or think of you as someone lesser,” the student said.
The student said navigating Cal Poly as an undocumented student has been challenging, however, future or current undocumented students should remain hopeful.
The student said other undocumented students should apply for local scholarships, reach out to faculty and staff from the Dream Center, develop relationships with allies on campus and become involved with clubs and student organizations.
“The reality is you will have it more challenging than your peers, but you will be a stronger individual,” the student said. “Do not be afraid to take risks to obtain your degree. You can push forward to anything you set your mind to.”