JARED ANGLE / THE EAGLE
School of International Service senior Daniel Leon spoke about his hardships as an undocumented immigrant and his struggle to gain residency at a panel on Oct. 22.
The panel addressed the problems faced by those with undocumented status. It was co-hosted by on-campus group American Dream AU and the national group United We Dream. Both groups advocate for Congress to pass the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act is a policy that would allow people who had entered the country before turning 15 and had lived in the United States for at least five years to apply for residency under certain conditions, according to the DREAM Act website.
Leon is one of at least two undocumented students on campus, according to American Dream AU members Andrea Gonzalez and Andrew Menefee. The other student does not wish be identified, Menefee said.
Living as a ‘dreamer’
Vicky Ramirez, a senior in SIS, lived with the fear of coming home to an empty house for almost 10 years.
“[I was] living under the uncertainty of what [was] going to happen tomorrow,” she said.
Ramirez was undocumented until she received permanent residency status in December 2009. She moved to the U.S. from Mexico City at the age of 8.
Ramirez became an advocate for the DREAM Act because of her status. She watched from the Senate Gallery in 2010 as the Senate voted down the DREAM Act by five votes.
However, the ‘dreamers’ were not discouraged, she said.
“We were undocumented and unafraid . . . we were empowered,” she said.
Unknown undocumented status
Leon said he did not know he was an undocumented immigrant until he began applying for college.
Leon, Venezuelan by birth, moved with his mother to the U.S. at the age of five.
He applied to five schools and was granted admission with full scholarship to all. However, his dream school in New York repealed his merit-based aid when he could not complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms.
It was then Leon realized he would be unable to attend any of the schools for financial reasons.
Leon ended up attending community college in Florida until he transferred to AU following his sophomore year.
The panelists discussed issues faced by undocumented immigrants every day, including education and employment.
“Most of you get fake [IDs] to be able to drink,” Leon said. “I got a fake to be able to drive.”
Ramirez said many people do not see undocumented immigrants as people, but as statistics.
Leon said he uses himself as a way to introduce skeptics to the issue on a more human level, waiting until they get to know him better to reveal his status.
“I’ve had friends who are against immigration, but then they realize I’m undocumented,” he said.