Standing for Dreamers at Saint Peter’s University

By Maria del Cielo Mendez, Saint Peter’s University ‘22

Maria del Cielo Mendez (photo courtesy of Saint Peter’s University)

I used to dream of what it would be like to sit in a college classroom, to live in a college dorm, and to honor my parents with the ability of proudly saying that their daughter is a college graduate. I am proud every day to be a first-generation student at Saint Peter’s University. This is the reason why my parents ran through the desert, leaving behind everything they had and everyone they loved. However, as an undocumented student living in this particular political era — watching my community become more and more afraid, my parents more and more unsure, and my future more and more unstable — these past two years have felt more like a nightmare than ever before.

I’ve been in this country since I was three years old. I learned how to read, how to write, and how to fall off a bike a dozen times and get back on, all in the United States. I love this country and am grateful for all that it’s given me, but I can’t continue living each day in fear — fear that my family will be ripped apart, that I’ll soon find myself in a detention center, and that all of our sacrifices would have been for nothing. For fifteen years, I’ve called this place home, and for fifteen years it’s called me an illegal alien.

The love and support that I’ve received from teachers, mentors and community members have kept me strong and hopeful that not only will I one day become a citizen, but that those in the American public will stop determining whether or not someone is worthy of respect based on their legal status. The first step would be to acknowledge that young, hard-working students are deserving of more than a legal band-aid. They deserve a pathway to citizenship — regardless of where they were born or how their parents chose to immigrate from a country where they felt hopeless. This can be done through the enactment of H. R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, but we can only succeed by sharing our own immigration stories and standing in solidarity with the undocumented community. The message this week is clear: Dreamers stand with the Dream and Promise Act, and Jesuit colleges and universities stand with their Dreamers.

Maria del Cielo Mendez is a freshman at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ, where she is a double-major in Communication & Media Studies and Political Science.

As the House Judiciary Committee prepares to mark up H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) encourages all students, faculty, staff and alumni of the nation’s 28 Jesuit institutions to contact their members of Congress and ask for their support to protect DACA students, as well as those who benefit from TPS and DED. Click here to contact your member today.