Undocumented students come together to share stories and discover opportunities
Given another child’s birth certificate and instructed to lie about his mother’s name, Miguel Castillo was taken by a guide and smuggled across the border at just three years old.
Now a sophomore at SF State, Castillo continues to overcome the challenges of being an undocumented citizen in the only country he calls home.
Castillo’s family struggled to get to California, but the fight did not end there. As an undocumented man, the business marketing major faces challenges many students have never had to consider. Castillosaid he lives with a constant fear of immigration (officers?) finding his parents.
“If anything happens to my family I’m going to drop out of school and go take care of my brothers,” Castillo said. “I’m going to do it with pride, its fine, but I’m scared. Like I’m terrified because that is so real to me.”
Improving Dreams, Equity, Access and Success, or IDEAS, provides Castillo and other students like him with information on internships, scholarship advising and perhaps most importantly, a supportive community.
“With IDEAS I get to walk in there and they all know what’s going on,” Castillo said. “I can be myself.”
Members of IDEAS bond over the similar struggles they face as undocumented people, such as finding jobs without a social security number or affording school without federal aid.
Many left their birth countries at a very young age and have never been able to go back to visit, in fear of being permanently barred from the states upon their return,according to Castillo.
At the organization’s second annual [Un]documenting SF State event Wednesday, Castillo was among students and alumni who shared poems, anecdotes and other works of art expressing their experiences.
The organization is committed to ensuring all of its members have a safe space, and the events give undocumented students a place to voice their stories.
“We’re all kind of in the same situation, but we all have different stories,” Castillo said. “Some of us actually crossed walking, some of us swam, some of us overstayed our visas, some of us are from Honduras, Brazil—we’re from everywhere.”
The performances were combined with interactive activities, a photobooth, a dinner feast and a raffle that invited guests to join the undocumented community. Cut-out paper butterflies, symbolic of migration, were available for undocumented students and allies to contribute their own stories.
The event featured Yosimar Reyes, a nationally acclaimed poet, educator, performance artist and public speaker, as well as a creative writing student at SF State. He shared several short stories of his youth, captivating the audience by jumping between obscene jokes, tragic tales and Spanish idioms.
“As people who do not have access to a lot of things, we still manage to thrive and celebrate. We still manage to fall in love while being undocumented,” Reyes said between stories. “And I feel that those things are not—a lot of times— told in mainstream media and I like to capture that.”
While some undocumented students choose not to showcase their status, others feel more comfortable sharing their experiences as an undocumented person, said IDEAS President Ana Morales.
The [Un]documenting event was meant to garner attention of students who are in the dark about the resources the group can provide in hopes of reaching out to more undocumented people.
“I’ve seen a lot of students come forward and be proud of their status because I think ultimately a lot of times we see that if it wasn’t for the things that we’ve gone through we probably wouldn’t be here at this moment,” Morales said.