Discomfort is something I’ve felt several times during my time with ScholarshipsA-Z. I felt it when students were calculating their out-of-state tuition costs while I thought about how I was on a full-ride scholarship at Duke. I felt it every time I was introduced as the Duke intern to recent high school grads who had their college plans shaken after in-state tuition was stolen from them. I felt it every time I had to explain that I didn’t have DACA because I had the option to adjust my status. This discomfort comes from being in a place of privilege. My privilege had always been praised. People were always quick to congratulate me on making it to Duke as an undocumented immigrant. Being an undocumented immigrant in college with no financial burden always created a sense of pride, never discomfort. I now felt discomfort because I knew my praise came at the expense of others.
For the first time I didn’t like being a “Dreamer” — the undocumented student that made it to an elite institution; the student everyone wants to legalize because they’re “good” for the United States. This Dreamer narrative is harmful to the very community it claims to support. Classifying Dreamers only as young people raised in the United States hoping to further their education dismisses the rest of the undocumented community. It dismisses the parents who still don’t speak English because they’ve worked their entire lives. It excludes the young people who don’t want to follow the typical college path and want to go straight into the workforce. It forgets the people coming into the country right now because of poverty and violence. It tells us that if we ever want citizenship we must fit a specific mold– we have to earn it.
This discomfort also came because I had never been in a place where I was one of the most privileged. I work every day with people my age who also came to the United States as children. Here I am one of the most privileged because I am able to continue my higher education, and live in a state where border patrol is not at every corner. This is a privilege that has only grown since I started college, but a newly discovered one. I am still figuring out how to use my privilege, but I do know that I am taking from Tucson an immense amount of knowledge on immigration that I can share to a campus full of more privilege — full of people like me who can do something. It may be fighting harder to bring in-state tuition to North Carolina. It may be starting the conversation about immigration beyond DACA. I do know that this privilege will not end in discomfort because this discomfort was only a wake up call that I am in a position to do more for my community.