Chicana author and UT student share their experiences as undocumented immigrants

Reagan Ritterbush

In a life dominated by uncertainty, undocumented immigrant Samuel Cervantes has become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“My identity is politicized, so I am constantly thinking of what the government, whether it be local, state or federal, might do to my family,” said Cervantes, a government and communication studies senior. “I have learned to be resilient and to cherish all the opportunities awarded to me.”

Similar to Cervantes, Reyna Grande, a Chicana author who visited UT Thursday night to discuss her experience as an undocumented college student, said college was different for her because she wasn’t able to connect to any of her classmates or professors.

“My experience living in poverty as a child isolated me,” Grande said. “Other people called my life story dramatic, but I called it reality. I can’t believe how many times I questioned my life because of it.”

Cervantes said he wishes other students understood being undocumented makes it difficult for him to participate in some of the most trivial aspects of life.

“There are many aspects of our life that students take for granted: signing an apartment lease, renewing your license or getting a job on campus,” Cervantes said. “Undocumented students face limits when it comes to these activities.”

Cervantes said although life is hard, attending college has given him opportunities he wouldn’t have otherwise.

“It is important to acknowledge that Texas was the first state to provide undocumented students an avenue to better their lives,” Cervantes said in reference to a Texas law passed in 2001 allowing some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

Grande said overall, college gave her the opportunity to separate herself from her family’s problems and heal emotionally.

“I found writing in college and it gave me the ability to unload everything that has ever happened to me,” Grande said. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Latino author until college, and it gave me strength. I am fortunate enough to have found a way to heal and I hope other undocumented college students find a way as well.”

Philosophy sophomore Alexander Abokhair said hearing more about Grande’s experience made him realize what kind of emotional trials young undocumented immigrants go through.

“A lot of the time you only hear about what it’s like for adults who are undocumented and not from children and college students who are,” Abokhair said. “They go through the same emotional experiences as adults and their stories are just as important.”