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Identity, Social Activism, and the Pursuit of Higher Education

The Journey Stories of Undocumented and Unafraid Community Activists


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 Eight




I shook my head and took a deep sigh as I read the reviewer’s comments out loud: “This research is biased and not everyone is going to agree with the legalization of illegal aliens.” It stings, but over the years I’ve sadly been desensitized to these comments, especially from journal reviewers. I quickly craft a note to myself: “Isn’t it our professional duty to assist all students in the best way possible, isn’t it ethical to inform ourselves of issues and topics so that we can serve the needs of our students to the best of our abilities, and will undocumented students always be considered political pawns rather than college students?” I put aside my pink ballpoint pen and sigh again. I gaze outside my office window on to the newly tarred asphalt parking lot and think to myself, “I know better. I know that our country was founded on anti-immigrant values and institutional systems have been constructed to sustain these inequities. I know that most people will be stuck on ‘Why couldn’t they immigrate the ”legal way”?’ as a way to defend their stance on anti-immigration policies. I certainly know that, historically, oppressed individuals operate under a system which works against rather than for undocumented people. And I know there is fear within the higher education system that makes folks more comfortable staying silent about this issue. This civil rights issue will continue as long as we sustain systems of inequities.”

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