A: Can you tell me your name and age?
E: Eduardo Misael Najera Ortega and I am 21
A: Okay let’s start again. Can you tell me what country you are originally from?
E: Um.. Mexico
A: And where are you from in the U.S.?
E: East Los Angeles, California
A: So, Maybe if you want to go ahead and start, just tell me more about yourself and whatever information you want to first off share?
E: Um hmm in regards to anything?
A: In L.A. Who do you live with, lets starts from there?
E: In East Los Angeles I live with my mother and my younger sister and my step father
A: And so why did you leave Mexico?
E: The main reason for me would have to be, to be reunited with my family since I had no seen them for four years.
A: And who were you in Mexico with?
E: My grandparents
A: So you were born in Mexico right? And when did your family leave and you were then with your grandparents?
E: So my mother left when I was seven years old, and she left because of economic reasons, we couldn’t afford to live anymore, she couldn’t provide the life for us that she wanted for us. There was no work in Mexico for her so she couldn’t sustain us, she had to make the decision to leave. My mother finished high school but when she applied to the university she couldn’t attend because lack of funds.
A: And how old was she?
E: I don’t remember, if I was seven, I would say she was 26, 27, 28? I honestly don’t remember
A: Ok that’s fine, so do you know much about your mom’s time when she left?
E: Her time in the United States?
E: I know very little, I know that she did various jobs. She worked mostly in restaurants, waiter, cashier and a cook. At some point she run this small joint on her own—so she waitress, cashier, cook, it was a burrito place. And all of her earnings she would send back to Mexico, for me and my older sister, and for my grandparents of course.
A: So I’m going to move away from asking about your mom for a minute and ask you what was life like in Mexico, when you were little? Do you have key memories?
E: Definitely key memories, its been eleven years now since I been back to Mexico and the things that I remember just that growing up was my childhood was very simple. I lived in a very rural town so I had no idea what cities were like—no streetlights, no pavemented streets, or a lot of animals. It wasn’t a farm and it was not a ranch, it was just a very small town with lots of agriculture life and my childhood did not involve a lot of toys per say, it was very limited to the toys that I could get and the brands that I could get. So I didn’t have no idea what brands were. So I lived a very simple life mostly playing outside with my friends. Interacting with some animals haha. That was just about it. I went to elementary school there until 6th grade. Those were good times. Yeah most of my life just revolved around school.
A: And did you like school?
E: Yeah I loved it. Yeah I was among the best in my class, number two to be precise out of the entire school. I was a part of what we call escolta which is the band guard, I am not sure what they call it but in Mexico we have a group of individual who every once a week they carry the flag and march around the school. And everyone sings the national anthem. So you have to take an exam and there are only five of them who make up that group so you rank among the first five of the entire school, you get the privilege of being part of that. And I ranked number two, and number one gets the flag. Ah! I really wanted the flag, but I got number two so I was captain! So I was in charge of giving orders to the marching group. That was a huge privilege to me.
A: What was it like living with your grandparents, or I mean what were your grandparents like when you were younger?
E: Oh! They raised me as their child! Definitely! I never felt secluded or discriminated because I wasn’t their child per say but they always embraced me. I was actually my grandpa’s favorite, so much that for 11 years I was known as Juanito, because my Grandfather was named Juan. So he loved me so much that people knew I was his favorite, so they started calling me Juanito, since I was treated as his own. My grandma—the same way, it wasn’t a bad life with my grandparents. My grandparents were great! It was just bad in the sense that I didn’t have my mother. So that was very difficult and painful for me to deal with.
A: So I know that during your speech at Noche, you talked about your mother telling you that she was going to leave to the U.S., Do you want to tell me a little bit more about that?
E: Yeah sure! So the day that my mother left was at the end of a week as I a previously stated, haha, she took us to the fair every single day. And at the end of that week, she pulled us aside and told us, me and my older sister, that she had to go to the United States to work, and I kind of shut down. I don’t really remember what happened that day. I just remember being shocked by that news, because even though I was very young, my mother always treated us as matured individual so she was very direct and honest with us. She didn’t sugar coat anything and she told us the reasons why she was leaving and what that meant. She said she was leaving because of economic reasons, and she couldn’t find a job and that we weren’t doing well financially. She wanted more for us, and a better future. And she was not sure when she was coming back. So that night, I only know what happened through the words of my mother, which is apparently I broke down. I cried, I was very violent, did not want to talk to anyone, kind of just shut down completely.
A: And you were around 7 years old when this happened?
A: Did she come back?
A: What was the decision like to go to the U.S.?
E: That was when my mother finally said, after four years she was finally able to establish herself economically, so she was stable and she could afford us to now have us there. So at the age of eleven I came to the United States.
A: So you and your sister both came to the U.S.? So what the process of preparing to leave?
E: It really wasn’t much a of a process we finally had the money to do so—kind of thing, so we were just waiting for me to finish the 5th grade and sort of like entering 6th grade to come, so that I wouldn’t mess up my class schedules. My mom was already researching when classes started here in the United States for me, so I wouldn’t start so late—middle school. So that was the plan. Education has always been very central to us and my mother was arranging the migration to match the class schedules so I wouldn’t miss classes, so that pretty much was what the whole plan was based on that.
A: So did you just get together your clothes? What was packing like?
E: I was eleven so I was very young so my grandma did most of my packing. I just said good-bye to friends from elementary school, my family from Mexico, so I honestly don’t remember the last day, just that I said good-bye to a lot of people. But I was more happy than sad to be honest. I was very excited. Leaving was not the hard part because I was going to see my mother for the first time in four years. That was all I cared about—seeing my mother at last.
A: How did you get to California? What was the means of transportation?
E: See that where I don’t think I can answer that
A: Oh yeah that’s okay!
E: It could be incriminating haha!
A: Yeah its okay, just answer what your comfortable with. I’m sorry about that. By all means you don’t have to answer that. So.. What was your first memory when you came to the U.S.?
E: Oh yeah! I can remember! The first time I came to the United States was to an East Los Angeles neighborhood. That is a memory for sure I can I remember. I arrived around 8 pm? No, no, no more later than that, 10 pm! And I arrived in this L.A. neighborhood and it was dark so I couldn’t really tell. Entering the city first was a shock. We were in a taxi and it was a lot of lights, a lot of lights! Because never in my life had I been in a city before. Everything was just lights! I just saw this huge tower of lights that turned out to be buildings and I said, “What is this, What is this madness?” It was incredible; it was like being in a dream. Cars everywhere, first time I was ever in a free way was the first time I came to the United States. It was too much to take and my mother was sitting next to me in the taxi. It was very surreal because this woman sitting next to me was a stranger yet very familiar person. I knew who she was and I felt love for her but the physical presence of her was a “stranger.” It was a strange presence. There was a lot of conflicting emotions going on those first minutes in L.A. Then we arrived home and the first meal I had was pizza hut. It was left over pizza hut that my sister. Oh yeah! My little sister! I have a little sister as well and I had not seen her for four years either.
A: Wait so did your younger sister or your older sister come with you?
E: No I came separately because my older sister came first and my younger sister was with my mom. When my mom left she took the baby because she was a baby. She was a new born.
A: And your older sister came to the U.S. before you?
E: Yes! A year before me because it was the money raised to bring us, we were so poor that the money raised to bring each of us. It was raised separate. So she couldn’t bring us both at the same time. The first time I was supposed to come first but I always love my older sister a lot that I was like “No she can go first and I can stay another year.” My younger sister had come with my mother from the start and that was another thing that I remember a lot was that meeting my younger sister for the first time.
A: How old was she then?
E: Yeah it was really weird.
A: So did she take a liking to you first? What was it like?
E: At first she was shy because she didn’t know who I was. She knew she had an older brother and I had spoken to her through the phone a bit but she was very young. She didn’t really know who I was. I was a stranger to her. My first memory of her was that she was sleeping on the couch and I ate pizza hut for the first time in my entire life and it was amazing. Hahaha, to this day its my favorite pizza. It’s the only pizza.
A: A lot of different things were happening all at once when you came to the U.S., Would you describe the experience as a culture shock? Or How would you describe the experience? Actually forget that, first I’ll ask did you know any English?
E: No I knew zero word of English—notta! Nothing at all.
A: So in your opinion was that a culture shock?
E: See that the interesting thing that I’ve always been asked and I don’t know how to answer that because culturally speaking if you remove the language component, it wasn’t that much of a culture shock because I was a brought up in East Lost Angeles which is predominately Mexican, Mexican-American. So everything about that neighborhood is that its very Mexican. A lot of people speak Spanish; a lot of the stores are in Spanish. You can literally approach almost anyone there and speak Spanish and you’ll be fine. That was not a culture shock at all. It was culturally shocking in a way because I went from a rural place to an urban setting. That was the shock! The fact that I saw streetlights, traffic, noise, buildings—being an urban setting, that was shocking to me! But it wasn’t shocking in a bad way. I didn’t necessarily feel out of place. I liked it a lot. When it got really hard is when I entered middle school. That’s when everything really changed because that’s when I realized that I was different. Since I didn’t know any English and because my peers were all Mexican or Mexican-American they discriminating against me, they made fun of me.
A: So your peers who were Mexican, and Mexican-American were making fun of you?
E: Yes, for not speaking English
A: Oh wow that’s interesting. Why do you think that might have been? Do you know?
E: Yeah definitely, I mean its something that I’ve studying on my own and sort of trying to comprehend. The racist’s thought is that just because you are Mexican you will identify with Mexican-Americans and that is just not true. Mexican-Americans are brought up in a very different culture, so when you come, especially if you come from a little town like me, its that clash of urban life against rural. And clash of many of those individuals growing up in an American way, they are not Mexicans in the sense that they were not raised in Mexico like the way that I was. So my culture was different, my ideals were different; the way that I saw the world was completely different. It was completely different and the language barrier was a huge thing because even though the middle school its in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, its all English. So what happens is this phenomena that for those of us who don’t speak English were put in ESL courses, we become the others. And we are treated as the others. I remember in the 7th grade when I finally achieved the English sufficiency to move to normal classes, regular classes, even the labeling of the classes were fucked up. Because I remember counselor saying to me, “you can finally move to normal classes!” What the fuck was I taking before if they weren’t normal classes?
A: I don’t know much about these classes that they make for non-native speaker of English, So what was the acronym?
E: Yeah ESL—English as a second language
A: So are all of the classes of other subjects in ESL, like math?
E: No, so English as a second language is a class on its own, where they teach you English. Literally you go in and you’re in a class with all non English speakers, and they teach you English from the very basics. The first thing I learned was “My name is” no actually I lied the first thing that I learned was, “I don’t speak English” haha and then after that I started learning the very basics like “My name is” short conversational from scratch, so that’s what ESL is. So if your in an ESL, it depends its not something that is standard at all. ESL courses and the way ESL students are treated differ from state to state. Some states don’t even have it. In California, and L.A. specifically, I was taking that ESL course which was just me learning how to speak English and my other 6 courses were history, math, science, but those were with teachers who spoke both English and Spanish. So I was lucky enough to get that, and my first science class was all in Spanish.
A: Did your teachers of your other classes, because they spoke Spanish, did they help you individually, or did they just speak Spanish in the classroom?
E: So that’s where is gets really fuzzy in why ESL programs just fail. Its because I had a mix of teachers. For example my biology class was in Spanish and my Math class my teacher knew zero words in Spanish, it was all-English. My History class was the same. So it got really confusing, so some classes I just had to work my way through with broken English. In math it was a lot simpler because it was just numbers, so I was just making sure that I memorized the equations and I knew the numbers, of course thank God that there were no presentations that I had to give orally, it was just learning equations and doing math, which is a universal language. Now History was another challenge. I had to do projects, write essays and my teacher knew I was in ESL, so it was just different grading but still very bad like C’s and D’s.
A: You were in the 6th grade, so how did it affect your grades, I guess? Did you have to stay back in some classes? What happened with your education track?
E: So 6th grade I had the toughest, the first semester was just the toughest time of my life to the point where I was about to drop out, so at some point I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had never been, I had never felt so humiliated and ashamed of having such low grades in my entire life. Since education has been priority in my family. Like I said before I went from being number 2 in my entire elementary to being at the bottom. IT was just devastating to me, to my self-esteem and having my peer not help me, not understand me, and just making it worse. I just felt like I couldn’t take it. So I told my mom that I was dropping out and I couldn’t go to school anymore. And my mom feeling guilt for not being with me for four years, started babying me and said, “It was fine and we can find another way.” So I stopped going to school for a week. Until the principle in the middle school called and said I had to show up or they were going to call the cops.
A: Because of state regulations?
E: Yeah you can’t drop out at that age, you aren’t allowed to. Its against the law, its mandatory for you to attend school. So they said, “we are going to take you to court, we are going to take your mom to court. You guys have to show up or explain and work this out with us.” So my mom took us, so that when the counselor gave her that speech about drowning and swimming, that pretty much the philosophy I lived in my entire life.
A: Can you remind me of the speech?
E: Yeah so we came into the counselor’s office and we were talking to her and she said. And of course everything was in Spanish because my mom does not speak English, so the counselor told my mother “In this world you either throw your child into the ocean and he learns how to swim or he drowns. There is a no other choice.” And that made a lot of sense to my mother. Because of the background where we come from, who we are, where we lived, everything was just very true of that statement—where she couldn’t baby me because the world was not going to be like that, so my mother did that. So she threw me back into the middle school where I grounded that out. At that point I also snapped at that point. I said, “I’m going to prove everyone wrong.” I made it that point that I was going to learn English quickly as possible. So I started watching only English tv shows, cartoon in English, movies in English, every single pop culture phenomenon that I knew was out there and I started swallowing it all in English. I made a conscious effort to stop reading in Spanish, watching things in Spanish, to even stop speaking Spanish, so it was funny at that time, because my little sister who was now 5 or 5ish, so she was learning English too, so I would practice with her. She was my language partner, we would have little conversation and games with her in English. That’s how both learned English at the same time—helping each other. And I was 11 but I was very young at heart, so I would do things with her like watch Dora the Explorer, I would watch Sesame Street, anything that could in English and simple and help me, and I learned a lot of American culture through Cartoons. So I would watch Cartoon network and Ed, Edd and Eddy, Cow and Chicken and everything was in English. That’s where I learned how to be Americanized and I was like “okay this what kids are into it” haha, And I liked it! And I was like okay cool and I started immersing myself into this culture and by the end of 7th grade, I was out of ESL course.
A: So it only took a year?
E: About a year and a half, yeah.
A: By a year and half, your teachers were like he can move out of ESL course?
E: He can move to normal classes, it was rough, yeah but I was really proud of myself because by the end of 8th grade I had become—oh! Its so upsetting though, so I was nominated for Valedictorian for middle school. By the end of 8th grade and we were going to graduate, I was nominated for Valedictorian because I had the highest GPA. So I managed to push my GPA so high that in 7th grade, I became so clever on how to work the system with my English skills that I learned how to move up into honor classes, but I was I still an ESL so I couldn’t get electives. And a lot of my teachers didn’t know I was in ESL. Some of them were shocked to find out. For example my history honors teacher was like, “What your in ESL?” And I was like “yeah” and he said “I wouldn’t have known that, if you didn’t tell me.” So by 8th grade my GPA was so high they nominated me for Valedictorian but the only reason why I didn’t get it was because there was this stupid rule that I had to have attended elementary in the United States. And I was like, “How does that make any sense?” but anyways I didn’t get valedictorian, I got second place, but I did get a plaque that said I ranked number one on the state history test, and I was like “Yes, number one is cool.”
A: Moving on to high school, would you say high school was more successful as far as classes went? What about your interpersonal relationship?
E: Oh yeah! I was American! My high school, I knew I runned the town when it came to culture. A huge difference when it came to middle school, I was very short, very very brown, because I grew up in a very hot desert area, I was short, brown and fat. I was the perfect target for bullying. Coming the summer before the freshman year of high school began, so once again my mom being very realistic and honest she said, “Son it sucks, I love you how you are, and you love you how you are but you are not happy” and I wasn’t happy with myself, and she said, “If you really want change, we are going to have to make sacrifices.” So I went into a diet haha. And started running a lot, and it was really bad and it sucked. It came to a point where I literally deprived myself of everything good, I literally ate vegetables for three months and started running a lot. 5 miles each day. So I lost a lot of weight and puberty hit me. So by freshman year of high school everything changed. I looked like the other kids, I was fit, the first time in my life. I grew tremendously. I was very tall compared to the other freshman in my high school. For the first time in my life I was very confident. I knew English very well. Classes were nothing to me, once again I had achieved that level of intelligence and understanding that I was comfortable with. The culture was not very different in the sense that I understood Mexican-American culture, American culture, Pop culture anything that was the cool thing. I was it. You couldn’t tell that I was Mexican, you could have mistaken me for any Mexican-American kid. So high school was a breeze.
A: Moving a little bit forward. I have a friend who struggled a lot when she was applying for colleges because she is undocumented migrant. She was very unsure on where she would apply to because she had no idea what the options were, so until she saw another student who was in the same situation come to Dartmouth, so that’s how ended up here. Was that something that was also a challenge for you?
E: High school was a breeze until senior year, and that’s when it truly hit me. That was towards the end when we were actually doing the applications of fall semester of senior year. So before that, junior year, I got accepted into a program called college match. College Match is fairly new program founded by Harley Franco, very generous individual who decided to fund this program to help talented inner city students who had a lot of potential. It’s a very strict program in the sense that you have to apply to it, you have to have a certain GPA, you have to certain requirements to get accepted. What it does is that it exposes you to all the opportunities that are outside of California. So what they did was an Ivy League trip, where we visited every singly Ivy League, that was the first time I even heard of the Ivy Leagues, and they took us to them all. It was for two weeks and we visited 20 colleges, them being all of the ivy leagues and the top-notch private schools, top-notch public schools, in the East coast. And that was the first time I was exposed to a label of the real American life, and I was like “Oh my god this is America.” For the first time I really saw white people, for the first time I was a minority. That’s when I learned about colleges but I didn’t know if they would accept me and I was very direct to them. Every time I went to an admissions office I would ask them, “I’m an undocumented student, will you accept me, is even worth my time to apply?” A lot them were honest and said, “No, we don’t.” Other were even more honest and said, “Yes we do, but we won’t offer financial aid.” That’s where I started knowing where I could apply. So I came to not overcome my fear of applications, because it was very unclear whether they would accept me because the only ones that were very promising were the top-notch ivy leagues. So I was like oof, I don’t get accepted there I’m screwed!
A: So the ivy leagues you talked to, did they say they would give you financial aid?
E: Ivy Leagues, Yes because they are private and they have tremendous amount of money.
A: Haha okay,
E: haha yeah so they don’t depend on the federal government to tell them what they do with their funds.
A: So that’s where you were really focusing on then?
E: Yeah I developed a very elitist mentality because I knew that if I wanted an easier life and not be in debt, my parents be in tremendous debt, I had to go Ivy League. Of course, I know that’s not the only way, that there are other options, but to me, Ivy Leagues were the answer. Especially Dartmouth, because I qualified as an international student, because technically I am an international student. Ivy leagues that provided, I believe its called, “blind-need” provide the same financial aid that they would American students to international students, which was interesting because that’s another thing that really scared me, because when I applied, I applied as an international student. So I was going to be put in the pool with international students who are very talented people. I was like “Omg I’m going to be competing with individuals who have way better education than I do. On top of students who are from the United States.” For example Pitzer College only accepts on undocumented student and grants one scholarship a year. So I was like my god, I’m competing for one spot! It was very scary.
A: I can imagine it being very stressful, So you applied regular decision to these schools?
A: So in Spring time when you got answers back, what was the feeling?
E: Oh my GOD! I cried, so actually the first letter I got back was a rejection letter, I want to say from Hamilton College? That was the first letter that came, and I was devastated. The second letter that came was rejection letter and I can’t remember where, and the third letter was a huge package from Dartmouth! And I was like Oh my god! And I lost it; I got a huge package. It all happened the same week. The two rejection letters came first, earlier in the week, and on Wednesday I got this small letter from Dartmouth and it was what our counselors call a “likely letter.” I read it and I was very confused because it said, “We have reviewed your application, we are highly considering you to be accepted. We really want you, and we just wanted to tell you that probability of you being accept is high.” And I was just like, “What does this mean? Am I accepted or not accepted?” I was very confused, so the next day I went to my counselor early in the morning and I asked Ms. Head, that’s her name, and I love her name to death, and I was like, “Ms. Head, What does this mean?” and she was like, “Oh your accepted!” And I was like “no, no don’t mess with me!” And she was like, “No these letters only get to students who are accepted and they are telling you ahead of time to tell you, you are accepted.” I’m just like “this makes no sense, why won’t they tell me already?” So later on that week I finally got the package with the acceptance letter, and I just cried. I was so happy, I didn’t even pay attention to the other acceptance packages that came later on that month because I don’t care, I just called Dartmouth right away and said, “Yes I’m going”
A: That was your top school?
E: Yeah I just called them right away and said “Yes I’m going, where do I sign, what do I do? I’m in, I’m in!” haha It was an amazing time.
A: How did your family feel? How did your mom feel?
E: Oh she cried too, she very happy. It was a very happy moment for all of us. We were very excited. My mom started bragging about it to her friends, even though no one knew what Dartmouth was. It was just a very exciting moment for us. Everything had paid off. Everything. That was the moment that mom was finally at peace, some sort of peace of her guilt for leaving for us for four years, I don’t know she still faces that guilt but I just tried to make every day and make sure she know I don’t hate her for that. Yeah it was just very emotional. I was very happy; it was amazing. The next day at school, I just, I don’t know it was just amazing. I cried like I said.
A: Going back, more towards your mom, and your sisters, So your older sister, How much older is she than you?
E: She is 24, so she is three years older.
A: 3 years older, I guess what was sort of the experience that your sister and your mother had with their language barrier and finding their place in the U.S.?
E. So my mother has definitely always been facing that language barrier, discrimination, and once again its sad because we have only experienced it from Mexican-Americans. Because we lived in East L.A.. So our America is based on Mexican-Americans because we never had interactions with white people, black people. It’s a very segregated area.
A: Were their Mexican migrants who also treated her that way too?
E: No those individuals that were migrants like ourselves, they were more understanding, they knew the struggle because they were also going through it.
A: So they Mexican-Americans, were they second generation?
E: Yeah second generation, third generation, fourth generation but they still lived in East L.A.
A: What about your older sister, she also only knew Spanish?
E: Yeah she had a similar experience to mine but she had a lot of, I guess the way that she has told me what her experience was that she had girl drama. She has always been more outgoing than me, she is more hard skin. She likes to talk a lot, so right away she started making friends, she overcame that Spanish barrier and claimed her space right away. She was so assertive about herself. She joined the soccer team in middle school. She started doing very social activities to the length that the language was not going to stop her. That’s what I always admired about her, she was just going to face the world.
A: Did she go to college?
E: No unfortunately she didn’t, she got pregnant at the age of 17, she dropped out of high school. She recently finished high school. And now she also finished a nurse assistant program, so now she is a nurse assistant, she is nurse assistant qualified. So that’s good, she will be working in a—I forgot what its called, for old people!
A: Nursing home.
E: She is doing stuff with her life, raising her child!
A: And it was easier for your littler sister to learn English because she was younger?
E: Yeah she definitely had a better, I mean her difficulties were more, everyone is just.. Her difficulties were being bullied for other reasons, so growing up she had deformity in her eye where one would move around without the other one moving. So little kids would make fun of her for that, so that was one of the biggest issues she had growing up. In elementary, to the point where she beat the crap out of this child, this little boy who would hurt. We are a very big family and she inherited the height of my stepfather. And she is just big, she is just taller than her average aged children and she tackled this boy and started smashing his head on the concrete, which is violent, yeah. That was the only thing that she had to face, the bullying for her eye.
A: What is the experience now looking back on where you have been, where you have gone? And now at Dartmouth, do you reflect upon the experiences that you have had? And how they affect your family and how they affect you?
E: Yeah, Yeah definitely! I don’t think even after I become a citizen, I won’t stop being an immigrant to this country. Its been a very self-reflecting process, always thinking of how I have changed. I’m in a no man’s land. I considered myself American, and I consider myself Mexican, and I don’t how these two are necessarily separate. It’s been really hard for me to try to redefine what being American means. So I come from the conclusion that American means Mexican, just like American means any other ethnicity, race. So that’s where I’ve come to finally see. So that’s why I don’t like moving on. I don’t like identifying myself as Mexican-American nor do I like identifying myself as Mexican solely. I am Mexican comma American. Not that little hyphen, I really dislike that hyphen. So I am both! And one at the same time.
A: One last question, Its almost time, so I have one question I’d really like to ask. A burning question, Are you going to apply to Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals, DACA?
E: I already applied! I’m waiting for that. I was supposed to get it by November, but because of the government shut down. It’s going to be delayed for a while. So I am not sure when I’m going to get it. So that’s another thing, right now not being in American has really affected me, because I haven’t gone back to my home for two years. This is going to be my third year at Dartmouth, as in not leaving Dartmouth at all.
A: So in the summer time you are still here?
A: So you haven’t been back to L.A.?
E: For almost three years.
A: How was is that for you?
E: At first it was rough because that means having to not see my mom once again for three years! Three years oh life.
A: Does technology make it easier though? Like skyping?
E: No because we aren’t doing well financially, like mom doesn’t have internet. Its really hard for us to do that, and its busy as hell. I haven’t talked to them in a while. Last time I saw my sister she was 11 and now she is 14, about to be 15 this May. So I’m like Fuck, I haven’t seen her for a long time.
A: So for Christmas break, what do you do?
E: I usually stay here, I do Christmas here. Its not too bad, I set my solitude here.
A: Also was Christmas something you celebrated?
E: Its actually my favorite holiday out of the whole year. Its actually the whole thing that I love the most. But my sister is in Connecticut and I have that choice of going Christmas there but I don’t really feel like that. We grew apart after she had her child and moved a way, so we kind of grew apart. I feel like I’m a burden to her, so I prefer being here.
A: Okay actually I have another question. So I know that you told me a little bit about the financial situation of your family, have you found yourself sending money home or supporting them from afar?
E: So that’s one of things that have been really eating at my soul was the fact that before DACA, I am not allowed to work. And Dartmouth doesn’t have any options for undocumented students when it comes to paid jobs, because we have to go through the federal roll pay thingy. And you need a social for that, so I can’t do that, unless you find a job or position where you are helping a professor and you get payments in stipends than yes, but those are really hard to come by. So its been struggle, where I can’t work and makes me feel so useless, and its so uncomfortable that being at Dartmouth and not being able to work. And people asking, “if you are having financial issues, why are you working?” You can’t really be telling them why your are not working. Or when they ask you why you aren’t going abroad, why are you not doing this and that? Because I can’t, I can’t even take those Alternative Spring Breaks because I cannot fly across the states, so its very frustrating because the simplest thing becomes so damn difficult.
A: Yeah that sucks, that you can’t engage in these Dartmouth things that people are so… “This is the Dartmouth Experience, you have to go abroad and do this and that” And so yeah that’s really hard and so before we end, and I know I said I only had one more question but I just have one more, What has been the most challenging thing about being at Dartmouth and being an undocumented migrant?
E: Not being able to embrace that part of my life. Not being able to sort of educate other about that. No matter when I do get my citizenship, I always have my undocumented identity that will never leave me. It is something that has been imprinted in me. Its like what my life has been based on in every single decision I have ever taken up to this point, that I will take next year and when I graduate. And a year after that, it will be based on that thing—being undocumented. You know everything my worst fears are from being undocumented, and my greatest achievements come from overcoming that issue. The fact that I cannot embrace that here and say yes I overcame this and no your wrong its not like that very undocumented experience necessarily have to be, its not just about farm workers. Its about children like me, students who have not seen their lands for years and do not know anything but this country. You don’t understand undocumented means, and its not illegal. Its not brown, it doesn’t have a color; it’s a status that anyone can be found in. Any immigrant can be found in eventually. Its been a very frustrating moment where you become a ghost, and you become accustomed to this, what Jamilah would call, “A culture of silence” Where no one talks about it, no one cares. Not even those who you would think be your allies, I mean we don’t talk about this thing on a daily basis in the Latino community. Sure we say that we are opened to it, and we will accept it, but you need to act like we see things to show that, you can’t just say that you accept it. And the way the college itself doesn’t let you have the structural entities that you need to feel welcomed you are just thrown into this Ocean. And I hate it because it makes me feel like I need to be critical of Dartmouth but at the same time, I am just so damn grateful, I mean I love this place, I love it to death because it has been my home and has given me a home for three years. If it wasn’t for them, I would be homeless most of the time. All interims, every single block of time when I’m not taking classes, I can always come and rely on Dartmouth for housing. And I don’t take that for granted. I know that I have a lot of really close friends at home who are undocumented and they don’t have what I have. They would die to have what I have. I know that at least there are a million of individuals who have been working their asses off for six or seven years from undergrad because they are in this situation where they couldn’t get to a school like Dartmouth. And it sucks because I know that any attempt that I make towards being critical towards a place that has fed me, housed me, and giving me an education will be seen as being ungrateful, and that’s the last thing that I want. I was brought up with this concept of always being grateful of those that have helped you. I’m found in this really weird situation where Dartmouth has been great to me, but I know that it has not been great to everyone. And because I know that it has not been great to me, I know that it has the potential to be great to everyone and that’s why I do the things I do. Not because I hate it, not because I think it’s the worst place in the world, because I know that it has the potential to be the greatest place in the world for everyone. So I don’t know its been a huge chore at the end of the day. The ignorance of people!
A: Aww such a great interview, I love the last point so much. Thank you soo much. It was so helpful. Thank you for doing this interview.
E: No thank you! I’m going to need a therapist haha.