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Identity, Social Activism, and the Pursuit of Higher Education

The Journey Stories of Undocumented and Unafraid Community Activists

Series:

Susana M. Muñoz

The topic of immigration has become increasingly volatile in U.S. society, and undocumented college students play a central role in mobilizing and politicizing a critical mass of activists to push forth a pro-immigration agenda, in particular the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act is the only federal legislation that would grant conditional citizenship and some financial aid assistance to undocumented students who have completed two years of college or enlist in military service. Since the DREAM Act failed to pass, undocumented students have moved from peaceful marches to acts of civil disobedience, seeking to disrupt the public discourse that positions undocumented students as living in the shadows of our system. Undocumented college students have created public forums in which they «come out» from these invisible images and pronounce themselves as «undocumented and unafraid».
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Chapter Four

Coming Out Process for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Communities

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Unpacking the “Staying In” and “Coming Out” Process … “Yeah, it’s kind of funny because every time I tell someone I don’t have papers, they’re like, ‘No way, are you serious?’”

The sounds of brass instruments and drumming filled the air, accompanied by chants of “Up, up with education, down, down with deportation.” The blustery Chicago cold winds did not dampen the spirits of the individuals at this rally in front of Daley Plaza who were chanting, dancing, and holding signs and art, demonstrating their solidarity. I watched as one student after another took their place at the podium to detail the mental stress of living under the shadows, their parents’ hopes, and the desperation of working toward an educational dream that they feared would not be realized. One by one, they recalled pain and fear and, like a serpent sheds its skin, they shed their antiquated philosophies and chose to act, to come out, and to proclaim themselves as undocumented and unafraid. While my body shivered and my cheeks were wind burned, I stood in stillness as my eyes swelled with tears, fully comprehending that I was witnessing a historic moment on U.S. soil.

The disclosure process for undocumented community activists is complex, fluid, and long lasting. There is no right or wrong way to come out as undocumented, but certainly social contexts and lived realities might impact the rationale for disclosing legal status. To better understand how one chooses to disclose one’s...

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