Just a couple of Saturdays ago, Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success (IDEAS) at the Claremont Colleges hosted “The Dream Run” — a 5K on campus to raise funds for undocumented students attending Pomona High School. We ended up being successful, raising more than $2,500, which will hopefully provide other students the ability to attend college with minimal costs.
Three weeks before that, IDEAS at the Claremont Colleges also hosted an event where three immigrant mothers were invited to campus so that they could share their immigration stories with us. It has made me really happy to come back from studying abroad to see the ways in which undocumented students are transforming Pomona College into a more inclusive, undocumented-friendly campus. What has even been more phenomenal is the increasing number of students who are becoming allies to the movement.
For many us who are part of the undocumented community at Pomona College, our education is a privileged one because the financial aid office is very generous and because we also have a very supportive Dean of Students Office (shoutout to Dean Feldblum, who is an immigration scholar and continues to push for more support for undocumented students!) The financial and academic support that we get at Pomona College is superb and far ahead of other colleges.
Just this past summer, the Admissions Office at Pomona College decided to be more transparent about their consideration of undocumented students — many colleges, as a result, have followed suit. It is important to let undocumented students know that they can be admitted to the nation’s top colleges and also receive generous financial aid packages. It is also important to showcase the community and resources that exist within the Claremont Colleges, because they are not something to be ashamed of. Instead, we should rejoice at the fact that Pomona College is far ahead for its time in making a private, liberal arts education accessible and affordable to undocumented students.
As an International Relations major, I have seen many instances where our class will discuss immigration politics, international migration patterns, and undocumented immigrants; however, I do not think that many students realize that some of the topics discussed in class can, in fact, be the lived reality for many undocumented students on campus. I think this can also be attributed to socioeconomic status — many students talk about poverty in a very distant manner, as if it is foreign to students at the Claremont Colleges.
But to me, being low-income and undocumented, both of these narratives have never been distant — they follow me wherever I go. It has become second nature for me to look at fellowships or other opportunities and search for their “US CITIZENS AND PERMANENT RESIDENTS ONLY” label.
It wasn’t until I came to Pomona College that I learned to embrace my undocumentedness. In high school, I was advised that the fewer people who knew about my undocumented status, the better. In college, when I joined IDEAS, I was still reluctant to disclose my status. During my sophomore year, I became the Co-President of IDEAS, and this really pushed me to accept myself as undocumented. It wasn’t until a movie night event in March that I got it off my chest. And when I did, I felt relieved because that’s when I came to accept who I am.
I AM UNDOCUMENTED AND UNAFRAID.