April 3, 2012

Undocumented Student Describes Struggles

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For undocumented students at Cornell, obtaining financial aid and finding employment after graduation can be nearly impossible. Still, Cornell United Religious Work sought to help these students find strength and inspiration through their struggles Thursday in the final talk of their “Soup and Hope” series.The series brought speakers connected to Cornell to campus to discuss various obstacles they faced in their time at the University. At Thursday’s event, a Cornell alumna, who requested to remain anonymous, spoke about her experiences as an undocumented student.For the speaker, her undocumented status has posed challenges while at Cornell and after graduating.“What [being undocumented] meant for her as a student was that she could not get financial aid because you have to be a citizen in order to do that,” said Leslie Meyerhoff, Ph.D., interim associate director of CURW and one of the program’s coordinators. “It has been difficult for her to find work as a graduate for the same reason. If you don’t have a social security number, that really limits you in your ability to do anything.”Meyerhoff said the speaker also addressed many of the emotional issues that undocumented students face.“Our speaker’s story was very personal and moving, and many people were brought to tears as she described the hardships her family has experienced,” Meyerhoff said.Jessica Perez ’13 said she felt that the talk was inspiring because although there are many struggling undocumented students, the speaker was overcoming these obstacles on her way to becoming a citizen.“The alumna added at the end of her speech that, although her story is unique, there are thousands of other students in the same conflicting situation,” she said in an email. “Her story did have a happy ending in the sense that she will be earning legal permanent residency soon.” Perez added that the Soup and Hope talk provided Cornell students and staff with perspective on an issue that is unfamiliar to many.“I feel that the majority of Cornellians don’t really have a grasp of what undocumented means or what the legality is between a student that’s here with papers and a student that’s here without papers,” she said. “It was refreshing to see people come out to the event.”Meyerhoff added that she hopes hearing about how an undocumented student overcame some of her obstacles inspired other students to persevere through struggles in their own lives.Adrian Palma ’13 said that many students at Cornell, including a group he is part of called the DREAM Team, are trying to raise awareness about a group of students that is often hidden or overlooked.“It’s something a lot of people don’t really know about, so we’re trying to inform people that these students are here and their struggles are real,” he said.

Original Author: Lauren Avery