The lack of nine digits — a Social Security number — force some of those in our immigrant nation to live in complete obscurity.
For years, those of us who are undocumented have been forced to live in the shadows, to blend in like chameleons, to keep quiet like thieves in the night. It is time for us to come out of the shadows, stand out in the crowd and let our voices be heard as we break the chain of fear that sets us back.
A North Shore chapter of the Student Immigration Movement (SIM) has been created so that undocumented brothers and sisters can come together in solidarity and unite our voices so everyone can hear us, loud and clear, as we proclaim across the nation: "We are undocumented and unafraid, and we are here to bring about necessary change!"
SIM is a statewide, youth-led organization that believes all immigrant students should have equal access to higher education and should not be discriminated against based on their immigration status. SIM invests time to help these students define their own identity, collectively realize their full potential and fully engage in society. SIM carries the message of unity and hope to those who have forgotten the importance of keeping the dream alive.
There is precedent for our mission. Our struggles parallel those of our African-American peers who fought long and hard against slavery, segregation and oppression. We cannot stand by while history repeats itself, enduring shattered dreams, forced family separations and broken lives.
I am proud to be coordinating the new North Shore SIM chapter.
SIM has changed my life immeasurably. I came to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 9, after the death of my mother. That was 13 years ago.
All throughout high school, I was very involved in school until my junior year. I was 17, living on my own, and lost, when I learned that all my dedication to school might never pay off, as I wouldn't be able to attend college. My grades slipped, and I withdrew from my activities and the world.
Luckily, my teachers noticed and reached out to help. I became determined to find a way to advance myself and build a viable future. It took me three years after high school to get accepted to college, receiving a scholarship that finally made it possible for me to afford to attend. North Shore Community College gave me the chance of a lifetime, and I want others to have the same chance.
People treat you differently if they learn that you are undocumented. They demean you and make you feel unworthy. I am working with SIM to show people that we are normal people — not "aliens" — who are just like their sons, daughters, neighbors, etc.
And I want other undocumented young people to know that they don't have to be afraid, they are not alone, and if we can make our voices heard, we can bring about change.
Education is key, so we are focusing on the need for undocumented students to be eligible for in-state tuition so that they can affordably attend college and become contributing members of society.
North Shore SIM held its first event on Thursday, March 29, at Salem State University. The event was held to educate the North Shore community about what it means to be in this country, striving for a chance to prosper, as door after door slams in your face. We invited 100 guests, including North Shore Community College President Wayne Burton and Dr. Alexandra Pinero Shields, who has worked in immigration services for the past 25 years.
President Burton, a supporter of the DREAM Act, shared his empathy and support for undocumented immigrant students. It was a tremendous beginning for North Shore SIM members Diego Rodriguez, Isabel Vargas, Crystal Villegas, Katherine Asuncion, Briana Holland, Nathania Francios, Flor Frias and Erika Perez. We are all college students who are committed to sharing our knowledge to open people's eyes to the brutal reality undocumented students face.
Was the prosperity of the United States not created by immigrants? Is it a crime to want to provide one's family with a chance at a better life and education? Are we unworthy of living, loving, laughing and making a difference for America because we lack nine digits?
Too much time is spent debating the issue while our immigrant people are silently dying of brutal discrimination, crime, poor health, starvation, sorrow — all because we are undocumented and too afraid to come out and seek help. I urge the North Shore community to join SIM in this vital movement that will bring peace and justice to an important and misunderstood population.
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Yonerky Santana is a health science student at North Shore Community College and is the coordinator of the North Shore Chapter of Student Immigrant Movement (SIM). She hopes to transfer to Salem State University and study to become a naturopathic doctor.