The concept of coming home and not knowing whether family will be there is a regular occurrence for undocumented people.
This fear was one of many mentioned at the rally in the MLK Plaza on Tuesday afternoon in support of the undocumented immigrants. The same sentiment was repeated in nearly every speech: fear.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for community organizations, campus clubs, that made it possible for me to learn how to tell my story, to show me that I wasn’t alone, to help me overcome the fear of filling out applications,” said Isabelle, a USF alum who was undocumented for 14 years. “It’s terrifying to fill out an application when you know that there’s information that it’s asking you that you don’t know how to answer, that you may not have those documents.
“There’s all kinds of scenarios. Going to the financial aid office, going to the registrar’s office. Where I wouldn’t have been able to handle the emotional burden of that, the fear of that, if I didn’t have a peer at my side, walking me there, asking the right questions and to not give up because sometimes we go to these departments and the information is really confusing to the staff and many times we don’t go back.”
The rally, organized by UndocUnited, utilized anonymous submissions of stories from undocumented students to illustrate some of the concerns and day-to-day life of being undocumented. The event’s organizers took turns reading some of these submissions.
“We wanted to make sure people were hearing these stories and how they’re humans,” said Olivia Flemming, UndocUnited vice president and co-founder. “They are brave to share (their stories) because they are often at risk.”
Paula, a community member, shared her experience working with an undocumented couple whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia and given only a few months to live. She said this family came to dread day-to-day activities such as going to the store to pick up medication for their daughter because if they were caught in a raid she would be left alone.
“It’s not always that you’re given the opportunity to attend school and accomplish your dreams,” Sammi, one of the event organizers, read. “It is a privilege to have a family that supports me and my friends, that always have my back. But recently I’ve been fearful for myself and my family. I wake up and come to school not knowing if I will see my parents when I get back home. My two sisters leave for school and its scary telling them that our parents are always under the threat of deportation.”
Speakers also emphasized the importance of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows those who came to the country as undocumented children a grace period from deportation and the eligibility to work or attend school.
“As a university, we strive to serve as model where all can share their perspectives in a civil and safe environment and support community members who apply these same standards in their own expressions,” Danielle McDonald, Dean of Students, said for vice president of Student Affairs and Student Success Paul Dosal. “There should be no ambiguity as to USF’s position on DACA. We are committed to the success of our students including undocumented students. We will do all we can within the law to promote their success and education.”
Sammi shared another story of a student who came to the U.S. legally at 5 years old and didn’t know until applying for college that their family had lost their documented status.
“Discovering I was undocumented felt like waking up to a nightmare,” she said. “Every day I live in fear that one day I’m going to get a call that my parents have been deported. Every day I think about how I’m going to survive if Trump repeals DACA or if I end up in this country alone. Every day I wonder if my hard work will be worth it in the end or if I’ll have to go back to a country that is foreign to me and start from square one. Every day I wonder if I really belong.”