Perspective: Undocumented and College-bound

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Taking that first step toward a college degree comes with several extra hurdles for undocumented students and other immigrant youth, and those challenges are often overlooked by many.

Incoming college freshman Dafne, who is undocumented, shared her story in Teen Vogue, hoping to highlight the extra hoops students like her often have to jump through.

“There are a lot of extra steps that undocumented students have to take to not expose themselves and their families. I remember when filling out these applications, I would wake up and fall asleep full of anxiety because I didn’t want to fill out the wrong things and invalidate my application,” she wrote.

“It was very scary to open up to college administrators about my parents’ income, how many people lived in my house, how long I had been in the US. My mom has always been very untrustworthy of the world and the people around her. It was very hard to get answers out of her to fill out the applications because she was scared that they would leave us vulnerable to scrutiny from ICE.”

Beyond the application, Dafne also had extra considerations when it came time to choose the right school. For her, location factored in heavily. Her mom’s “biggest concern was that I would pass through an immigration checkpoint on the drive to school and get picked up by ICE; she also worried that she wouldn’t be able to visit me if I did end up going there. Hearing that from her was very disheartening, and it brought me back to reality.”

Dafne’s fears didn’t subside when she arrived on campus. While she said she is pleased with her decision, just navigating the orientation process was a struggle.

“While in line for registration, I was wondering to myself how I even got into the same school as the people surrounding me, almost all of whom were Asian or white. Almost all of them had the luxury of having their parents right next to them, as mine stayed home praying that everything would be okay for me,” Dafne wrote.

“As I stood in line, I once again felt like the scared and lonely third-grade immigrant girl in line for her first class in the US. This time I didn’t cry while in line.”

Read Dafne’s full essay and watch NACAC’s recent Facebook Live on supporting undocumented students and other immigrant youth.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org.

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