By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – “A couple months after my father’s death, my grandmother passed away as well. There was no way we could have gone to the Philippines during this time, no matter how much we longed to. My mother was still in the process of attaining her permanent residency, and I was still undocumented.”
The above work is from a passage titled “A Downward Spiral” by a Filipino undocumented student. The author of the story is John Carlo, a pseudonym, but it could be anybody living in this country illegally.
Carlo’s story is not atypical of the predicament of the 12 million undocumented people in this country. Torn between their homeland and their adopted one, Carlo’s story is just one of the many stories in the book Underground Undergrads about the plight of undocumented college students. These are their stories told through the eyes of the youth about their family’s ordeal.
One day before the May 1 immigration rally that brought thousands of immigrant groups and activists together, the UCLA student group IDEAS (Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success) held a book launch, promoting Underground Undergrads at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center.
The book is one-third narrative stories, one-third legislative history affecting undocumented students, and one-third advocacy. There are eight narrative stories from students of different backgrounds – one is a FilAm fighting for the rights of the undocumented, others are undocumented students from Korea, Philippines, Mexico, El Salvador, Vietnam and Argentina.
“It’s a way for people to understand what we are going through,” said Stephanie, an undocumented UCLA student from the Philippines. Stephanie was born in the Philippines and brought over to the US by her parents at the age of three.
According to UCLA Center for Labor Research & Education, there are approximately 65,000 undocumented students that graduate from US high schools each year.
UCLA Professor Kent Wong said that more than 100 undocumented students attend UCLA as AB 540 students.
“There is really no way to count how many undocumented students there are,” he said. “This book is historic because it explores the lives of these [undocumented] students.”
Stephanie said that the book is a good way for undocumented high school students to know they are not alone.
“This is something to use like a tool,” said Stephanie, who admits she had a hard time accepting her undocumented status when she left high school. “It’s not until I met others like me in my situation that there is a possibility. A possibility for me to go to school, go to a college and succeed.”
She also said that this book is the only real way to bring out the immigration discussion especially in the Filipino/ FilAm community.
Last year, Stephanie began her advocacy, a task she admits took a little time to deal with.
“Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s a threat. I admit I was scared of speaking out at first,” she said. “But it’s even scarier if we don’t talk about it. The only real power is to speak out. We need to teach ourselves, about ourselves, and about our issues [affecting the Filipino community].”