By Sofia Campos
I came to the US when I was six from Peru, along with my younger brother and sister. I found out about my undocumented status in my senior year at Eagle Rock High School. Despite the countless barriers before us, my parents encouraged me to accept my admissions to UCLA. After graduating from high school, I began commuting to UCLA from Highland Park to attend my classes–it took me 2 hours each way to get to campus by way of 4 busses. This lasted for my first 2 years at UCLA. This was my reality as an undocumented student who is not allowed to legally drive, legally work, nor apply to most forms of financial aid. This was also my struggle as a woman who was not willing to allow her immigration status impede her future, no matter how risky the late night commute may have been. Though I did carry pepper spray, I often feel grateful that no physical harm ever came my way during that part of my life.
Now, I am a senior at UCLA majoring in International Development Studies and Political Science, and minoring in Labor and Work Place Studies. This past year, I served as the Co-Chair of IDEAS at UCLA, one of the first organizations in the country to support and advocate for undocumented student rights. In addition to mentoring undocumented youth and presenting DREAM Act and college workshops to educators and students throughout LA County, IDEAS led our largest annual Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference this past May, where over 1,000 people came to UCLA to learn how to overcome their immigration status and reach higher education. After learning about my status at seventeen, speaking out at various rallies and events, and committing herself to the immigrant youth movement, today I live Undocumented and Unafraid.
Today, my brother is attending UC San Diego and my little sister will soon begin her studies at UC Santa Barbara. By helping her create an IDEAS organization at her high school, undocumented students there will not have to wait until college to understand that they too can fulfill their potential. These forms of community empowerment are crucial for the kind of positive change our society needs, and I hope more people will join our cause for social justice so that more cycles of empowerment may grow. No matter what stories move us, what issues spark our interest, or what passions motivate us, we are and will always be one movement brought together by love and a deep desire for justice.
I am blessed to be a part of this social justice movement and I do not take my struggle for granted. As a result of my experiences and education thus far, I know we can change this world for the better. I hope to continue encouraging others to become empowered individuals so we may work cohesively to accomplish great progress for together. We–our hope, our love, our struggles– must be invisible no more.
Isang Bagsak, which in Tagalog means “One Rise, One Fall.”
An Invisible Experience
By Sofia Campos
How to get through the Day,
When it starts at 6 AM on the first of 4 buses to get to UCLA.
How to get though the Week,
When it starts with rejection from the AMC
Because there is no California ID to verify an age older than 17.
How to get though the Month,
When it starts with dropping out of UCLA for a quarter or more
Because there is just not enough money to pay anymore.
And How to get through the Year,When it starts with the weight of the world
On top of seemingly
It is that invisible faith,Coupled with that invisible hopeThat gets me through this Invisible Experience.
Being undocumented takes the phrase
“Count your blessings” to a whole different level.
Every smile I receive, Every hug I embrace
Every act of kindness I glimpse
Radiates throughout this universe,Into mind, soul, and place.
It is this faith I do my best to nurture, to grip
Because that is how I get through my year,
That is how I live
UNDOCUMENTED And UNAFRAID.