Coming Out of the Shadows

A group of Lehman College students spoke at a campus rally in March 2011 to publicly declare their undocumented status and to show their support for the Dream Act—the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

10 Minutes 45 Seconds

Coming Out of the Shadows

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This is Karstina Wong, a student at Lehman College. A group of Lehman College students spoke at a campus rally in March 2011 to publicly declare their undocumented status and to show their support for the Dream Act—the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

To date, congress has failed to enact this proposed legislation, which would give undocumented students, under certain conditions, a path to citizenship. Stories presented by students are included in this segment.



When you look at me, at first you only see what’s on the outside: my eyes, my hair and the color of my skin. You’d see how I dress and talk, and you’d swear I was a regular person just like anybody else. But if I let you, you’d see that on the inside lies a complete different person. Inside lies someone, who holds not one, but two secrets that tears him apart day after day. But one in particular creates a burden that surpasses the other.

You’d also see a strong, hardworking, dedicated and caring person. But to tell you the truth I never thought I would be here at Lehman telling you this. Like, many of my fellow dreamers, I found out I was undocumented at an early age. And since then I have always felt like a second-class citizen. Always doing twice the amount of work than that of my fellow peers just to get by and feel at level with them.

But never that I note that it would only get harder as time went on. In high school, when all of my friends were getting ready to apply for their permits, state IDs, summer jobs, colleges, financial aid, or to travel abroad, I was left in the shadows never to know what life would be like if I had those privileges, which many of my friends seemed to take for granted.


As time went on I began to feel oppressed. The fact that I was undocumented made me feel like I was stuck in limbo, not knowing whether I will have a future or not. And on top of that trying to feel comfortable with myself, because I had discovered I was gay. And in time I would fall into a depression because of this. There was a time when I felt so oppressed and discouraged that all I wanted to do was drop out, because I was afraid of being disappointed later in life because I couldn’t make my dreams come true.

But my Spanish teacher would not have it. She encouraged me and made me realize that if I wanted to change something it would have to start with me. So, I began doing this by proving to everyone that as an undocumented student I could accomplish the same goals that many of my peers could too.

I’m not ashamed of being an undocumented student because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be the strong and hardworking person I am today. It’s because of that I know the true value of an education and what it means to have a dream. It is because of that I know I will someday be a great linguist. And that I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me whether I’m an American or not.


Because in my heart I know I’m just as American as anybody else watching Glee on a Tuesday night, eating Chinese food, and washing it down with agua de horchata. Come on. (LAUGHTER) You wanna know why because I’m more than American at heart. I’m a dreamer. And I’m gay and I’m proud and I’m undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic. (APPLAUSE)



While being undocumented is something not simple, it is something that I am no longer afraid to admit and now I can openly share. I arrived with my mother to the United States over 15 years ago. Since then, I have never gone back to Mexico.

At the time, my mother had come to meet up with my father. They had little or no intention of staying here, yet I am here 15 years later, in the U.S., and more American than Mexican. To me, the United States is my only home.

While I have embraced the U.S. as my home, the U.S. has only done nothing but slam the door in my face by not allowing me to pursue a college education. I am faced with the struggle of having to pay for my tuition out of my own pocket, without any financial aid and little to almost no opportunity for scholarships.


Why is it that being undocumented should limit my love for the country that I want to contribute back to and the place that I call home? During my entire high school career, I focused on building an extensive résumé, one that would impress colleges. I took honors classes and advanced placement classes. I became junior varsity of the volleyball team and of the lacrosse team. I constantly donated my time to community service.

On top of it all, I began to work my junior year. I became part of the top 15 percent of our class to graduate out of 500, and I graduated as a member of the National Junior Honors Society. Yet, I still remember the day when I broke down in tears in my guidance counselor’s office as we reviewed my college options.

With my accomplishments, getting accepted was not far from reach. The only thing that would keep me back was the cold fact that I am an undocumented student. As we crossed out each of the names of the colleges, each line was like a stab to my heart. Everything I had worked so hard for, in a sense, had been for nothing. I would not be having the college experience I had imagined and, to say the least, the one that I deserved.


My counselor was highly torn away by the injustice being committed against me and many other fellow dreamers who suffer from the same dilemma. I can never forget watching my counselor break down into tears alongside me and saying that when one door closes, many other doors open.

That is why today I am here at Lehman, in fellow company of my other dreamers, which has opened up new doors to me, the dream team. I now know that I am not alone. I stand here to share my story to encourage other dreamers to join the fight and to never give up, to fight for the injustice being committed against fruitful individuals with potential, seeking to bring about change, and to give back to the nation which is what we call home.

While the fight is at its peak, we must all gather together and celebrate our efforts and honor our talents. I am more hopeful than ever that change is coming. I can only hope that change comes sooner than later for us dreamers who only wish to call this our home and make it our home forever. (APPLAUSE)



In 2007, when the first DREAM Act vote that I can remember took place, I remember watchin’ it from home. And I actually just graduated college. So at that point, I had no path to go. I was a college graduate, and I couldn’t do much with it. So at that moment, I committed myself to make something of myself. And at that point, I realized that I needed to show courage for myself, for my family, and for my community.

And today I stand as a third-year law student at the City University School of Law. I’m top of my class with 3.8 G.P.A., with a full scholarship. (APPLAUSE) And as you can imagine, there was the pressure. But I needed to do it for myself. And I needed to do it for every other undocumented student, every brave dreamer that currently is fighting for their dreams.

Now, I stand here beside you committed to this cause. Because with the job market and law students, there’s hundreds across the nation who are unemployed or have no job opportunities. And yet for me as an undocumented law student, I receive about five New York job opportunities, government and including international.


It’s interesting because I know if I could go abroad, I could make a great living. I could leave this country and say, “You know what? Forget it.” But I can’t because I’m committed to my family, myself, and to my fellow dreamers who are still fighting this battle. And I would never leave them behind.

And that is why I’m here saying, I am undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic for our fight for justice. And we will continue to fight for this cause until our last breath. I am so proud for the Lehman team that I wish when I was in college that I had the ounce of courage that you guys are displaying today. And for that I so thank you greatly. And I will support you till the end. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)



We are the students sitting in your classes, the ones you might never suspect, some with thick accents, others already Americanized. The ones they stamp illegal, banana boats, alien, unwanted, unneeded, undocumented as if we are people with the same red hearts and blue veins, as if we, too, aren’t dreamers, as if we brought ourselves here.

Tell us, “Go back to where you come from.” If only you knew, you aren’t native to this land, either. Ask for an America without immigrants and you will have none. No schools. No government. No buildings. No people. No white men writing declarations because they, too, are immigrants. What will you do then?

With no bricks supporting this nation, your foundation will easily crumble. We are here studying to make your country a better place as we always have. America, don’t fool yourself. Don’t break the same backs and bite the same hands that feed you. It isn’t wise. They stamp us alien, wetback, banana boat, unwanted, unneeded.


We are undocumented, but we are stepping out of the shadows, freely and fearlessly, dreamers and supporters. Stepping out from the dark, no longer letting our silence and your ignorance be our definitions. Fearlessly and proud, we are telling our stories. This time, you will hear. Listen to our voices. America, there’s a lot we’ve been wanting to say. We will say it this time. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)



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