When I was a little girl, my father would constantly remind me how it important it was to continue my education. That ultimately, it was the one thing no one could ever take away from me because I earned it. I never really understood the power of his words until today, just weeks away from walking across the stage and becoming the second in my family to earn a Bachelor’s Degree.
Now imagine how I feel knowing that my graduation could put my parents’ lives in jeopardy. I am writing this not knowing whether or not my parents are safe flying from California to Massachusetts as undocumented immigrants. Not knowing whether they will be detained or make it on time to my graduation ceremony. May 21, a day of celebration, is also a day of stress and worry.
Oftentimes, many students on this campus fail to realize and acknowledge that not all families have the privilege or financial means to attend graduation. Unfortunately, not all family members of students on this campus have the ‘appropriate’ documentation to travel without fear. Given all the racist and harmful rhetoric being said about immigrants today, the fear many undocumented immigrants feel is valid, and the worries of their children who are being affected by this must not go unrecognized.
When meeting with administrators to discuss what the university could do to support families in these circumstances, I was told nothing could be done. That the university’s priority at the moment is to protect students, both citizens and non-citizens, documented and undocumented. While it is reassuring knowing the university (supposedly) prioritizes protecting students, what about their families? What about parents and siblings risking their lives to celebrate the accomplishments of their loved ones? What about protecting families traveling internationally, especially from countries targeted by the Muslim ban? In the end, what happens to our families affects us as students. There is no feeling of safety or reassurance knowing I am protected while my parents are at risk of being removed from this country.
Tufts University and universities across the country can no longer dismiss this issue. The university’s complacent stance with regards to how it supports undocumented families is unacceptable. As an institution, Tufts has the tools to connect undocumented families with resources to facilitate with traveling. As an institution, Tufts must do a better job addressing the concerns of their students (granted, we are their priority). I am one of few students with undocumented family members who has reached out to administrators, and none of us have received the assistance or information needed to feel safe with our parents traveling.
I truly hope students and administrators become more cognizant of this issue as it is alive and present on our campus. I also hope the university becomes more equipped to support students and their families for the graduation ceremonies to come. No student should have to deal with this fear on their own.
As for my family, who has done everything to ensure I have access to the opportunities they did not have growing up, they should not be excluded from this milestone in my life. My parents have sacrificed everything — their physical and mental health, their education and their homeland — to ensure that I receive a higher education. They are the reason I am here today. Graduation day, my diploma, my Tufts education, it is all for my parents. Los quiero mucho mami y papi, espero verlos pronto.