Friday, December 3, 2010

Q&A: An undocumented student's journey to get a degree

Four years ago, Sem Moreno was one of the first Charlotte students to openly discuss his immigrant status when explaining how difficult it was for undocumented students like him to further their education.

The Concord High graduate was able to continue his education with the help of supporters, but he says thousands can’t and won’t unless Congress passes bills like the Dream Act. As Congress continues to debate the bill that would give young illegal immigrants a chance at residency status if they attend college, we caught up with Moreno, now 24, to talk about his long battle to continue his education.

You wrote a book in 2004 called "Do Not Leave Us Behind" about the perspectives from 15 Hispanic students like yourself who have grown up in the U.S., but have limited opportunities because of their immigration status. You even sent a copy to President Bush. The situation today is pretty much the same. Still no Dream Act. Do you feel you were left behind?
In terms of the legislative bill proposal, Dream Act, things seem to be about the same and stuck in congress. No, I do not feel left behind. Personally, I feel I defied time and fate by fulfilling my purpose and ambitions.
How were you able to continue your college education without legal residency?
I was fortunate to receive financial assistance from non-profit organizations and from Queens University of Charlotte, a private institution, from which I obtained my degree.
You were one of the first students to come out about your residency status and advocate for yourself. You knew the risks. You could have been deported? Why take the chance?
The media has given us, immigrants, a deteriorating name and portrays our image as negative or as that of a criminal. Because we rarely hear about the contributions and accomplishments of the Latino community I decided to share my story hoping for you to see the other face of America, immigrants, from a different perspective.
Today, more students are following your lead. Should they be more concerned about the possibility that they could be deported?
No. I believe students should be more concerned about becoming skilled professionals than fearing deportation.
Why is it important for them to speak out?
It is imperative for these students to speak out because change will not happen unless they take the lead. Legislators must know 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools across America each year who are unable to attend higher education.
Are you continuing to do advocacy work?
Lately, I have been playing the role of a spectator as supposed to that of a gladiator. Last year I started exploring opportunities to further my education in a different country.
How do you feel that the Dream Act has yet to be enacted?
A whole generation of bright individuals is being placed in limbo. And I am disappointed that congress has not been able to pass this bill since 2001.
The Dream Act is currently being discussed in Congress. Do you think it has a chance of passing before the end of the lame duck session after which new legislators take over?
I think the Dream Act has the same possibilities of passing now as it did 9 years ago.
What's next for you?
Canada is next for me. I have been accepted in a M.Sc. program in immunology (research) at the University of Manitoba. I will be living in Winnipeg. After completing my graduate program I would like to continue doing research and to teach at the college level.
Would you like to return to the Charlotte?
Charlotte is like home to me. It would be great to visit the many people who supported and believed in me throughout my 10 year journey in the U.S.


Anonymous said...

Is there any reason on earth that an illegal immigrant cannot apply to a college in the US exactly the same way that millions of other foreign students do?

Just curious, since I don't want to shed tears for no good reason.

Why should illegals get special treatment and preference over other good foreign students?

Anonymous said...
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