My name is Alicia Torres Don, I am 25 years old and I am UNDOCUMENTED, UNAFRAID, UNASHAMED! I entered the United States in 1992 at the age of 6. My parents made the sacrifice of leaving their culture, language, home and family behind in an effort to provide a better tomorrow for their children.

We crossed the border in the middle of the night in company of hundreds more shadows all in the search for a better life. As a family we settled in Austin, TX and although we were all aware of our undocumented status it was something that was not talked about outside the walls of the security of our home. From elementary through high school 99% of my classmates were Latino and I always made assumptions about the status of other classmates but never went further than simple assumptions because I more than anybody, at least I felt at the time, understood the stigma that came from being labeled as a “wetback”. I cannot say that I lived in fear because I didn’t, everybody around me looked like me but I however did live in shame.  At some point in high school I remember sitting in the infamous big yellow round bus when suddenly I heard someone shout out “you, you have it too. You have the shot; you were born in Mexico too.” I did not know what to say or how to react at first but I knew that I could not deny it; I did have the shot; so I simply said “yeah”. I had been outed.  Contrary to what you might expect, I was not embarrassed to get on the bus the next morning, I found it to be actually a bit liberating and at that time I had college to think about, so my undocumented status was not at the top of my priority list.

I was a privileged undocumented youth in the sense that when I graduated high school in 2004, Texas was one of the few states that allowed undocumented students to pay in state tuition. I was the first to graduate high school and the first to be on her way to college in my family. I was on top of the world because it was through my own merits that I was going to be going and paying for college. But surprise, surprise the curve ball of a life time was thrown at me when I graduated college in 2009 and still my undocumented status had not changed.  I had a Bachelor’s in the Science of Nursing and was bilingual, the dream of many hospitals, but I could not take my licensing exam because I did not have a 9 digit number and therefore I could not put my degree into practice.  I was frustrated and angry but blessed once again because I knew that the best way to channel this anger and frustration was to put it all in the efforts of passing the DREAM Act.  Along the way I became part of the more than 2 million undocumented students that were demanding a change in their status and creating a youth movement along the way.

In 2010 due to personal circumstances I found myself relocating to North Carolina, a place I knew nothing about. It was not long before I connected with members of the NC DREAM Team and it was through them that I had an entire new reality check and most definitely a privilege check. In North Carolina undocumented students do not get in state tuition, but yet there are those that manage to graduate even though they pay the international rate. In North Carolina if you are undocumented and you want to register for classes in a community college it is by mandate that you have to wait until the end to give time for all the natural-born citizens time to register and even after you wait till the end to get the left over spaces if for whatever reason you have already registered and paid and suddenly a citizen decides that he/she wants to register for that same class, you, as the undocumented student will be removed and your spot will be given to that citizen. Not because they are more academically deserving than you but because they have a 9 digit number. Talk about the creation of second class citizens. To me this was completely unheard off and it just seemed too crazy to be true. But it was not long before I had people in front of my face sharing their hurtful but true experiences. How could this be? It could be and it was happening because racism and injustice still exists here and in the rest of the world. 

It was then that I decided that it had been fate that had brought me to North Carolina. It was then that I realized that the entire struggle for DREAM Act was bigger than just me. It was not just about my own personal struggle but rather about OUR struggle. A struggle that for me had up to now been a bit easier due to in state tuition and the fact that in Texas I felt like the majority and not the minority. But in North Carolina undocumented youth had and are still very much isolated because of its very rural make up. But it is also in North Carolina that I witnessed the most spirit of perseverance that I have ever seen.  It was the undocumented youth in North Carolina that made me want to fight, but not for me, for US because I like you am UNDOCUMENTED and we will all soon learn to be UNAFRAID, UNASHAMED! Thank you undocumented youth of North Carolina for giving me a life shake up and making me realize that my problems would not be solved by simply going back to where I came from but by staying and fighting for what is right, for justice for our community. We are struggling, but we are surviving and we will PERSEVERE.

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