What is the current situation that undocumented Americans face?
It's hard to imagine what it it means to be undocumented day, after day, after day, forever; but it's a hidden existence for 4% of the population (which in comparison is roughly the size of the of Asian American population.) I've learned a lot from dating Jessica about what it means to be undocumented- it means not being free. She can't legally work, which is a human right. She and her family could be deported at any time. There is a 95% chance that her siblings will never attend college. She can't call the police when she's been victimized by crime. She can't travel abroad or get loans from the bank. She never chose to be undocumented, but being undocumented reveals the intersection of identity and freedom.
Why did Tania Chairez and Jessica Hyejin Lee publicly announce their undocumented status?
Jessica and Tania are two of my heroes. They both came out in their school newspapers as undocumented last semester and have spoken at Bryn Mawr about being undocumented. Jessica has been patronizingly warned by professors and others about the risk she was taking from coming out or from doing civil disobedience. Both acts are certainly courageous, but Jessica and Tania believe in a chant that they used at the rally, "no courage! no change!" Nobody, even out of concern, should tell them that they should stay in the closet and be patient and let their documented allies work for their liberation. It will continue to take young undocumented people coming out and committing civil disobedience in order to reclaim their identities, to fight fear and shame, to challenge the system of power, to reveal the injustices, to expose ICE's hypocrisy, and to create change.
What positive (or negative) outcomes have resulted from their arrest and release?
Their action and release increased the pressure on ICE to release Miguel, who has been detained for over 7 months, separated from his citizen fiancée and their two young sons. The action also raised awareness, not only in the Tri-co and UPenn, but also throughout the country of the inspiring courage of Jessica and Tania and the horrific injustices that plague them and their communities. The response in the Tri-co has been amazing. Seven hundred Bryn Mawr alumni signed a petition for their release within 6 hours. Hundreds of students, faculty, and alumni welcomed them back to campus.
Every Bryn Mawr student and parent of a student received an email from the school that recognized Jessica's arrest, and Bryn Mawr's support for her. Still, the email mischaracterized Bryn Mawr's policies towards undocumented Americans as something that doesn't chang, saying " A foundational principle of the College's admissions policies is that we do not discriminate on the basis of citizenship or national origin when making admissions decisions. Moreover, once a student is admitted to Bryn Mawr and makes the choice to attend, the College will fully support that student in all aspects of her (or his) pursuit of a Bryn Mawr education." Yet currently at Bryn Mawr, undocumented Americans receive a different admissions process than documented Americans, are unfairly recognized as "international students.” They are denied funding for summer programs solely because of their immigration status. Jessica and others are organizing a petition to change these policies.
Jessica and I and a few others (shout out to HC's Gwen Morgan) worked this semester to change policies regarding undocumented Americans at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore. We had a historic victory at Haverford, which will become the 7th college in the country to extend need-blind admissions to undocumented Americans. Currently 95% of undocumented American youth will not attend college; we think this is an injustice that no institution should have any role in maintaining. We want to expand on Haverford's victory for justice, so we'll be launching the SUDDEN Movement, Students for Undocumented Dreams and Decision Equity Now Movement, and bringing it to over 30 campuses next year.
Jessica and I had been dating for over three months when she told me that she was undocumented. Turns out you can't tell a person's immigration status by looking at them or even dating them.
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