Being Undocumented

23 Nov

In one October day, Sarah Radmer realized that her goal to represent the University of Washington’s undocumented students would be a very difficult task. Sarah is a university of Washington student who is majoring in Journalism and Public relations. Prior to becoming student at the UW Sarah admits to having been a person who didn’t pay close attention to the immigration situation in the U.S.

“I passively followed the various stories about immigration legislation and the Dream Act. But I followed it in the same way that you read a news story about a car accident. Read. Digest. And move on,” she says.

She became interested in this issue when in one of her Journalism classes Sarah was introduced to the work of Jose Antonio Vargas. His story was published in the New York Times on June 22, 2011 in which Vargas, a working journalist in the U.S., described his status as an undocumented immigrant. Since then, Vergas travels to different states to tell his story. He does it to promote global awareness and to start a human dialogue about the problems attached to immigration in the U.S.

One of his stops landed him at the UW, where he visited Sarah’s class as a guest speaker.

“I have never listened to a speaker and felt more guilty. Because not only was I so ignorant of the situation, but also because I was unaware that I had been sitting in a classroom for nearly a quarter with students who had stories very similar to Vargas. I walked out of that lecture hall feeling so much more appreciative of my own citizenship status,” Sarah says.

Since that moment, Sarah has been spending a lot of time researching, educating herself and others about the topic of immigration. She felt so passionate about this issue that she decided to create a blog in which she could post helpful content and resourceful information for reference. Some of the data that Sarah collected included already existing and helpful information such as the HB 1079 bill and the 2001 Dream Act. Her goal was to collect and share the stories of others, anonymously and without exposing their identity. That being said, Sarah thought it was really important to make available a common place where students could access these resources, her blog. After being introduced to the issue of immigration, Sarah thought that it was only a natural reaction for her to want to protect this really at-risk group.

But when Sarah reached out to this community, so they could share their personal experiences, continuance of her project was challenged. The undocumented students were afraid of exposure. They therefore declined participation in her project. Despite the fact that Sarah was ready to protect them and keep their identity anonymous, she was turned down. Fear can be the game changer in this type of circumstances.

Disappointed, Sarah was forced to discontinue her project out of respect for her potential sources. It is Important to notice that Sarah didn’t want to dedicate her time and effort just to represent the undocumented students. She also wanted to educate people who weren’t aware and lacked understanding about this issue.

Sarah’s story is unique. Foreigners, undocumented students and immigrants may find it difficult to believe that this young American girl would strive for a change that strongly supports the educational choices of other ethnic groups, but the reality is that she does. Through her story, we see how minority groups are unrepresented and how stereotypes serve as barriers limiting our communities to unite and help one another. Earning trust is a very difficult task, but if we are not open to hearing one another we will not be able to have any positive impact in the world. Life is not a given, it is a privilege.

Sarah wanted to have the same impact as Vergas had on her, because the power of storytelling is incomparable to anything else.

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