This post struck for a few reasons. The first, I had gone to school with her older brother since middle school and had known Barbara as Allan's little sister since then. I had no clue that she was undocumented; this was true of a few friends I had growing up through Lynwood schools. Her post also served as another clear example of how the approach to immigration is both racist and not based in fact.
I want to make sure we amplify the truth around this issue. Here are the questions I had for Barbara along with her responses:
What was your response to the DACA repeal announcement?
"I was not surprised about the news nor the fact that Trump could not face us himself to make the announcement.”
When did you find out you were undocumented?
"I was 9 or 10 years old. My soccer team had won the championship and were invited to play in Hawaii at a national tournament. My parents were uncomfortable with me traveling because I was undocumented, so I couldn't go."
Tell me about your life growing up in Lynwood.
"I grew up like the rest of the kids in Lynwood; it's a community that will always be dear to my heart. I go home as often as I can. But growing up in Lynwood had its challenges. My counselors in high school were woefully misinformed about undocumented students. I was told that I could not attend college because of my undocumented status. So, I dropped out of high school."
As a fellow alum of Lynwood schools, I am happy to share that we are now better equipped to support undocumented students because of stories like yours. Being told you could not go to college must have been a crushing blow. What made you decide to go back?
"My mother. She was aware of the obstacles I faced, being undocumented, but was disappointed in me for not taking advantage of what my parents brought me to this country for. Her being disappointed in me was heartbreaking. At the time, I was young and probably didn't appreciate all she had done for me. The bar she had set for me was to graduate high school, I at least owed her that."
Looking back at that period in your life, is there anything you would have done differently?
"I don't think so; things happened for a reason. Interestingly, dropping out of school was beneficial. When I re-enrolled in school, I had to take courses at a community college concurrently. In doing so, I found out that I could attend college. I'm not sure I would have found this out had I not dropped out of high school in the first place.
What made you want to pursue a career in medicine?
"I wanted to tackle the health disparities that plagued communities like mine. Being a social justice advocate led me to believe that I needed tools and education if I wanted to have a direct impact on health."
What do you say to those proponents of DACA who suggest undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents as children should go home?
"We are home."
What is your plan going forward?
I plan to use my newfound privilege, my green card, to continue advocating for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States today.
What advice do you have for those who will follow in your footsteps?
"Don't try to follow my footsteps, choose your own path. But if our paths cross, let's work together to support our communities. Don't forget the struggle or the community that helped you get where you are. No matter what happens, we are resilient; the strength in our community is palpable."
Barbara's story is one of many examples of the great promise our undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients possess and what they can accomplish if given a chance. I am extremely proud of the woman she has become and excited to see what more great things she will accomplish. In reaching out to her, I told her I thought she is a leader, whether she likes it or not. She does so, by embodying the promise and potential that parents of DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants risk life and imprisonment to give their children. As an educator, I am all the more motivated to ensure we continue to support this vulnerable population of students and their families so that their dreams remain valid. Barbara, thank you for your leadership. Your community is proud of you.