News, Opinions

Acknowledging our Privileges

Jessica Mendoza, Editor-in-Chief

Immigration statuses impact us on a day to day basis without us realizing how they shape our conversations. In a higher education setting, it can feel like a taboo to discuss immigration in the United States. For individuals that are undocumented or are close to someone that is  undocumented, this topic can be difficult to discuss. As a second-generation Mexican-American, I am passionate about immigrant rights because they impact my community. I think that when these conversations do come up, it is important to recognize our position. Are we United States citizens? If we are, then that comes with many different privileges that we often do not think about. 

Growing up, I would have conversations within my family about immigration and was often confused about why there were so many restrictions on undocumented immigrants. As someone who has loved ones with this status, I tense up when the topic of immigration comes up. Access to things like health care, higher education and the ability to leave the country are stripped from this community. The number of people that manage to overcome barriers to accessing these resources is small. 

When it comes to health care, for some U.S citizens, it can be hard to obtain. But for many undocumented immigrants, it is something that they are forced to deal with themselves. Government assistance and other forms of support are limited, which means that individuals use home remedies to feel better, which can have detrimental consequences in the long run. Medical expenses can be so high that visiting a hospital might not be a feasible option for some people. 

In terms of attending a community college or four-year university, the cost of attendance becomes a much higher burden for those with undocumented status. The FAFSA requires that you be a U.S citizen, and other forms of government assistance may hold other requirements that undocumented immigrants cannot fulfill. On top of these issues, it is also painful when I have had conversations with family members about visiting their country of origin. Many undocumented immigrants are not sure when or if they will return to visit once more and cannot predict under what circumstances. There is much uncertainty that comes with being undocumented and fear of not knowing what will happen next. 

Our society labels undocumented immigrants to the point that they become reduced to stereotypes. I think about the people that I know have this status and I do not see how these narratives could apply to them. Even though there is now more attention and awareness of the importance of creating spaces for undocumented immigrants I think we have a long way to go. It’s dehumanizing to only view a person based on their legal status which is something individuals often have no control over. I did not have any say in being born in this country. The fact that I don’t have to think about my legal status on a day to day basis is only because of some legal forms that say I am a U.S citizen. Although I try to be understanding of the situation some of my family members and friends are in, I know that it’s something that I don’t fully comprehend because it is not my reality. 

Within the Latinx community, immigration continues to be at the center of issues we face because of laws that do not view people based on their humanity. An expectation placed on me as someone who is granted privileges just by being born in the United States is to take advantage of the opportunities available to me. A challenge I want to hold myself and others to is finding ways to create pathways so that undocumented immigrants can have access to opportunities and resources as well. We need to acknowledge the things we often take for granted, because a majority of the population does not have the same experiences.