A long-time reader sent me the LA Times’ latest story on the plight of the undocumented immigrant (or as they say “illegal immigrant”) student at a four-year university.
Before I read the story, I thought it’d be just like many of the other mainstream media stories I’d read about undocumented students. These articles usually focus on the valedictorians and other high achievers. That doesn’t surprise me. It appeals to the many who buy into the meritocratic ideals underlying the myth of the American dream. If only you work hard enough, you can make it!
It’s rare to read a story about the undocumented student who is not at the top of her class, doesn’t have an inflated GPA due to dozens of honors and AP classes, and scored only okay on standardized admissions tests. Yet she does exist, and she deserves an opportunity at higher education too.
Thus, I was glad to read Justin Song’s article on Karina an undocumented/AB 540 student from Mexico. She graduated from San Pedro high school last June. She was not admitted to her first choice school, San Diego State, but was admitted to UCLA.
Like other AB 540 students, Karina is ineligible for most forms of financial aid. Since she doesn’t have a SSN, she can’t submit a FAFSA. She saved her money from her job and got some help when staff at the Boys & Girls Club held a fundraiser. Once she started UCLA, she faced some other challenges like the tough commute and not being able to get the classes she wanted.
The reader who emailed me suggested I email the writer and pass on advice about UCLA resources. It’d be a shame to see her leave due to finances or pressure. Rather than email the writer, I checked the Underground Undergrads blog. As I expected, Matías posted an excerpt from the story as well as some information:
I remember that same feeling, and I gotta say I never got to look right or act right in the UCLA bubble. And for the record on Karina, who is now more integrated into the IDEAS family, she might have given up on that a bit, too, since I usually see her carrying her skateboard. She doesn’t have to go through four years of this commute and this uncertainty: support the DREAM Act.
I’ll hold back on the email to the reporter. It looks like Matías and IDEAS — a campus organization for AB 540 students and their supporters — will make sure Karina does well.