Sadhana Singh ’18
Trinity proudly enrolls 45 Dreamer Scholars, with scholarship support from TheDream.US. Dreamers have a unique status: They were brought to the United States by their parents as minors and raised and educated in this country. Yet, as undocumented immigrants, their opportunities to pursue their dreams of college are limited. In 2012, the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) was created to protect young immigrants from the risk of deportation and give them the ability to legally work and attend school. Junior Sadhana Singh is the co-founder and president of the Dreamer Alliance at Trinity.
On November 9, 2016, we all awoke to a new reality. For many, there was shock, confusion and denial. For Dreamers and undocumented immigrants, crippling fear and anxiety were added in. During his campaign, President Trump presented himself as strongly anti-immigrant. There were repeated vows to build a wall, deport millions, and repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
I am a recipient of DACA, and it changed my life.
I immigrated to the U.S. from Guyana with my family when I was 13 years old. We settled in Georgia and I graduated from high school there, near the top of my class, in 2005. I was unable to move on to college right away due to my status. I was barred from the top five public universities in Georgia at the time, and was ineligible for in-state tuition and any kind of financial aid, loans and scholarships. So, I put my dream of higher education on hold and was fortunate enough to secure a job after high school. I worked there to support my parents and our household for the next nine years. This was a difficult period. I felt restrained and left behind as I watched my friends progress with their lives, while I was perpetually stuck in the same place. Moreover, I carried my undocumented status like a shameful secret, afraid that people would look at me negatively if they found out.
In 2012, DACA refilled my diminishing well of hope. I could now have a form of ID other than my childhood passport; I could drive. I could go to college. Because of DACA’s existence, TheDream.US scholarship program was created. To see that a group of people believed in me and my ambition and potential was incredibly encouraging. Finally, my goal of earning a bachelor’s degree was within reach, and I started on a new path.
When I arrived on Trinity’s campus in August 2014 to begin my college career at age 28, a new world opened for me and the possibilities were numerous. I immediately felt at home in D.C. and at Trinity. I co-founded a club for the first cohort of Dreamers on campus, which has since grown in both the number of Dreamers, and our allies. I am amazed at the support and encouragement that I receive from my professors, staff and my peers. In the past three years, I’ve been invited to places where I never imagined myself thanks to both Trinity and TheDream.US, from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, from an education summit sponsored by The Atlantic magazine to a conference on immigration issues in Los Angeles.
I have gained empowerment and self-assurance in who I am, not only as a Dreamer, but as a woman of color as well. I am no longer ashamed of what I am labeled and I make the most of the opportunities and resources that are given to me.
But so far, 2017 has been difficult. DACA’s fate is tenuous. While I am covered to my spring 2018 graduation date, I am concerned that I may not be able to work afterwards. It’s that time of year when my friends are asking each other about graduate school, and I respond with uncertainty and apprehension because I do not know if I will get there.
I had gained confidence and a willingness to share my story with others, to foster honest communication and understanding around the plight of undocumented immigrants. Now, I hesitate. I fear that I will become known. I worry that if I am out in the open immigration authorities will target me, and furthermore, they will track down my family. I listen to my fellow Dreamers express their own fears that one day they will come home and find that their parents have been put into a detention center. I hear them speak about a family member losing their job because employers do not want the risk. On the phone, I listen to my mom say that she is afraid to go out now because there have been an increased number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the area.
For people who are simply trying to survive and provide for their families, this is no way to live. For those of us with DACA, which gives us the chance to participate in and contribute to American society, we do not toil and succeed in isolation. Our families are dependent on us – whether it is to contribute to the household finances, take care of younger siblings or translate a document. Yes, DACA was not a comprehensive solution and many were left out of its distinct criteria; extensive immigration reform is necessary. But this administration’s messages surrounding immigration and foreigners are abundantly clear, and unfortunately our fate lies in its hands.
Despite this new reality, I see my fellow Trinity Dreamers attend class every day and still pursue their goals. We have endured so much to get to where we are, and we are passionate about our dreams and committed to our success. On November 9, 2016, my eyelids were swollen and my heart was heavy. But I held one truth in my mind: I have come this far and I am not going backwards. I know that with the support of Trinity and the Dreamer community, we will persevere as we’ve done for years and we will bring about positive change amidst fear and adversity.