Things That Matter

While Homesickness During College Is Hard Enough As It Is, This Latino Student Explains Why It’s Been Even More Difficult For Him

Shortened preview of Ale’s Graduation from Davis along with his family for being able to join him after not being able to see them for a number of years. Thanks Jo and Jon for helping along with this!

#undocumentedunafraid #undocumedia #fuckyourborders #undocugrad

Posted by Luis VC on Sunday, June 25, 2017

After dealing with homesickness for three years, this university student was finally able to reunite with his family and the tears were endless.

At 14 years old, Alejandro Espinoza made the decision to move to the United States with his aunt and uncle to learn English and attend high school. Coming to the U.S. to pursue an education meant leaving behind his parents and two younger brothers in Guanajuato, Mexico. Even though Alejandro’s family was able to visit him in the U.S. with tourist visas, their financial situation didn’t allow for this to happen frequently. Often times, Alejandro went months and sometimes years without seeing his family.

Once Alejandro completed high school and had the opportunity to attend a university, his homesickness only got worse.

While homesickness during college is hard enough, Alejandro explains that for him it was even more difficult because he knew his family wasn’t just a car or plane ride away.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“Other people would say, ‘Oh I miss my mom, I miss my dad,’ and I missed my mom too, but it wasn’t like I could just go home and see her.

It was especially difficult when my little brothers would post pictures on social media of my family. It sucks being absent from those pictures. And then you start to realize, ‘oh shit, mi mamá ya se ve mas mayor, or mi papá ya tiene más canas,’ and it sucks.”

Even though the original plan was to go back home to his family after completing high school, college then became an opportunity Alejandro could not miss. However, this opportunity ended up costing him the relationship he once had with his brothers.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“My brother is now 16 years old, that’s how old I was when I came to the U.S. I left them when they were six and three years old and the physical change has really thrown me off.

Nothing has changed, they’re still my younger brothers and I’m still the older brother. We’ve just been absent from each other’s lives for so long that we don’t know much about each other outside of that younger brother/older brother role.”

Since Alejandro made the decision to pursue his education in the U.S., he’s carried an overwhelming amount of guilt, feeling responsible for tearing his family apart.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“When I tell you about missing their birthdays, or missing Mother’s Day, just missing anything about their life, I don’t see it as, ‘Oh well, I missed it.’ I feel like, ‘Fuck, this is your fault because you decided to stay. It’s your fault that your brothers don’t have an older brother. It’s your fault that you can’t see your mom on Mother’s Day.’

I have always blamed it on me.”

But when Alejandro saw his family arrive at the airport and was able to hug them, it was as if all of that guilt had been lifted off his shoulders.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“I was really nervous going through the airport, and through the drive to the airport.

When I saw them my body just started crying on it’s own. I didn’t think about anything. When I hugged my brother, in that moment, after crying for like 15 minutes with my brothers and parents, coming back, my body felt so relieved.

It was until that moment that I was able to get rid of that guilt, and be like, ‘They’re here now, and they’re here because they want to see what I have done.'”

However Alejandro explains that that immense guilt wouldn’t exist in the first place if “there wasn’t a border.”

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“I wouldn’t have to make this decision…It wouldn’t be so hard if there wasn’t a border. Because then I could have access to my family any time I wanted.

My goals are separated from my family.

If I pursue my goals here, then I have to be away from my family. And if I stay with my family, then I have to leave my goals and dreams that I have here.”

Alejandro opens up more about this internal battle in his poem “Por lxs que están aquí, pero no lxs pueden ver” which he read during commencement.

CREDIT: ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

Little by little, whether it is through his poetry, documented videos, or any form of art at all, Alejandro wishes to touch on this subject that harms not just himself, but students all across the U.S.

“Once people see that someone is going through similar circumstances, they don’t feel alone. The reason I do art, why I share my art, is because I always see people at the end of the video or poetry reading who are like, ‘Fuck, I thought I was alone.’”

Although Alejandro was fortunate enough to have his family present for his college graduation, they are now gone and there’s no certainty about when he will get to see them again. All of the pain, guilt, anxiety and depression that he feels because of this separation is something he will continue to highlight through his art.


To help Alejandro with his tuition as he moves on to pursue his Masters degree, donate through this link here.


READ: A Teacher Thought She Was Funny Handing Out Racist Awards To Students But No One Is Smiling Now


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Here Are The States Offering Undocumented Residents Access to Financial Aid For College

Things That Matter

Here Are The States Offering Undocumented Residents Access to Financial Aid For College

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According to the Pew Research Center, there are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants that reside in the U.S. as of 2016, which includes about 700,000 people under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In total, the group represents 3.4 percent of the country’s total population. Undocumented students are a subset of this group and face various roadblocks due to their legal status, including obstacles that prevent them from receiving equal educational opportunities as U.S. citizens and legal U.S. residents. 

Most universities don’t offer in-state tuition to undocumented students and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) is not available for undocumented students either. For those who live in states that don’t offer in-state tuition, it means taking on huge loans and working multiple jobs to pay for tuition, or sometimes, foregoing college altogether.

Yet, there are a handful of states in the U.S. that are doing their part to help undocumented students receive some sort of financial assistance. Whether that’s legislation extending in-state tuition rates to undocumented students who meet specific requirements or receiving state financial aid, there is help. 

The following U.S. states allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid.

Credit: Nicole Honeywell / Unsplash

1. California

In California, there were 200,150 students that were participating in the DACA program as of August 2018, according to the Migration Policy Institute. This means that many of those students received some kind of financial assistance when it came to their education. State law (AB 540, AB 130, and AB 131) provides undocumented students with in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid. There are 23 campus options for the California State University system and 9 campus options of the University of California (UC).

The average cost of in-state tuition and fees: $9,680

2. New Mexico

New Mexico is doing it’s part when it comes to helping undocumented students pursue higher education. The state offers in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students through SB 582. The state also has one of the lowest costs when it comes to in-state tuition and fees.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $6,920

3. Oregon

Back in April 2013, Oregon adopted a state policy, HB 2787, granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. This has opened up countless opportunities for many who are pursuing college. 

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $10,360 

4. Minnesota

Minnesota offers in-state tuition and state financial aid to undocumented students through the MN Dream Act. This includes over two dozen colleges and universities offer in-state tuition to all students, regardless of status, residence, or MN Dream Act eligibility.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $11,300

5. Texas

The Lone-Star State is certainly the biggest state in the country and is also one a huge resource when it comes to assisting aspiring colleges students. In Texas, undocumented students may qualify for Texas State Financial Aid. The state in 2001 became the first in the nation to allow undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition to public universities. They only need to have lived in Texas for the three years before they graduated from high school.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $9,840

6. Washington

Undocumented students are eligible to receive in-state tuition as of 2003 via HB 1079. In 2014, the state also enacted the Washington State DREAM Act into law, making undocumented students eligible for state financial aid.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $9,480

7. New Jersey

In 2013, New Jersey gave in-state tuition benefits to undocumented immigrants. Last year, undocumented students were finally able to apply for state financial aid after Gov. Phil Murphy signed bill NJ S 699 (18R) opening up state funds for undocumented immigrants going to college.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $13,870

The following states allow for in-state tuition rates for undocumented students 

(This includes the previous 6 mentioned states that allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid)
Credit: Charles DeLoye / Unsplash

1. Colorado

In 2013, state lawmakers in Colorado created SB 13-033 which allows undocumented children to follow their American dreams. They allowed them to pay the significantly cheaper in-state tuition to go to state colleges instead of higher out-of-state prices.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $10,800

2. Connecticut 

In 2011, the Connecticut General Assembly approved a law which offers undocumented students residing in Connecticut in-state tuition benefits at the state’s public colleges. HB 8644 not only allows for undocumented students to pay in-state tuition for college, but it also states that students only have to attend two years of high school in the state to be eligible.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $12,390 

3. Florida

Former Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 851 into law in 2014. The measure allows undocumented students who spent three consecutive years in a Florida high school and applied to an educational institution within 24 months of graduating to apply for and out-of-state tuition waiver.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $6,360 

4. Illinois

Undocumented students in Illinois are eligible for in-state tuition and private scholarships through Public Act 093-007 (In-State Tuition) and SB 2185 (Illinois DREAM Act). Students can also access the state’s Monetary Award Program, aka MAP grants.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $13,620

5. Kansas

In 2018, HB 2145 gave undocumented students in Kansas access to in-state tuition. To qualify, students must have attended a Kansas high school for three or more years.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $9,230 

6. Maryland

In Maryland, things are a bit different compared to other states when it comes to financial assistance. Undocumented students are eligible for in-state tuition under SB 167, however, they must attend a community college before qualifying for in-state tuition at a public university.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $9,580

7. Nebraska

The state has provided in-state tuition to undocumented students for the last 13 years. LB 239 states that undocumented students must have attended high school for at least three years before graduating high school or receiving a GED.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $8,270

8. Utah

Utah gave undocumented students access to in-state tuition back in 2002. HB 144 states that people are eligible for in-state tuition if they attend high school in Utah for three or more years and must file or be willing to file when able an application for residency.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $6,790

9. New York

Through the Dream Act, undocumented students who meet the Tuition Assistance Program requirements, currently received access to state financial aid. Previously, New York had allowed all high school students who graduated from a New York high school an opportunity to receive in-state tuition at two local colleges, City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY).

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $7,940

10. Oklahoma

HB 1804 made it possible for undocumented students in the state can receive in-state tuition if they graduated from a private or public Oklahoma high school and were accepted to a school in Oklahoma’s state university system.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $8,460

11. Rhode Island

While it might be the smallest state in the country, it’s still doing its part to help undocumented college students by offering in-state tuition. The Board of Governors for Higher Education voted unanimously to give undocumented students in-state tuition if they graduated from a Rhode Island high school and sign an affidavit saying they will apply for legal residency when eligible.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $12,230

12. Virginia 

Virginia still has work to do but, currently, students on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are eligible for in-state tuition. However, there are people fighting to expand that benefit to all undocumented residents of the state.

The average 2017-18 cost of in-state tuition and fees: $12,820

READ: This Latino College Grad Is Showing How To Persevere Against All Odds In the Face Of Ignorance And Racism

A Latina’s Viral Facebook Post Sends Message To First-Generation Students: “You cannot behave like the rest of them”

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A Latina’s Viral Facebook Post Sends Message To First-Generation Students: “You cannot behave like the rest of them”

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A new fall season is upon us, which means it’s time to hit the books and go back to school. For some of us, “back to school” can ignite dread, anxiety, and stress. For others, it could mean a time to reunite with friends or go full-throttle into our studies. For most of us, going back to school fuels feelings that teeter between anxiety and utter joy. It’s a confusing time, especially for those incoming freshmen Latinas that will be entering a whole new world of firsts, doubts, and loneliness.

College life isn’t just about studying for so many children who are first-generation immigrants. Instead, for many, education and the potential paths it can lead us to, weighs heavier.

Valeria Alvarado, a Texan Fulbright scholar, wrote an incredible Facebook post that highlights the hardships that first-generation Latinas will face as freshmen in college.

Credit: Facebook/@valeria.alvarado

Alvarado, who’s currently in Serbia as an English Teaching Assistant, began her letter of advice to Latinas by saying, “You’re gonna see all the other freshmen moving in with their families, taking box after box into their rooms, while you’re standing there, alone, with your two maletas [suitcases] and backpack. It’s sucks; I know. And you’re going to be meeting so many different types of people and students. You’re going to see the other students sometimes online shopping during class. You. Can. Not. Be. Like. Them.”

“You. Can. Not. Be. Like. Them” was the overall general theme of Alvarado’s post, and it hits home for so many of us who have been in those shoes.

Credit: Facebook/@valeria.alvarado

Alvarado’s post went live 24 hours ago and has had almost 8K shares.

She goes on to say in her post that while other students may be partying it up, and taking school for granted, Latinas have to remain focus because our life depends on this privilege of being able to go to college. There’s no slacking off in school for us, she wrote, “Estás becada y no puedes actuar como los otros.” You have a scholarship, and you cannot behave like the rest of them.

Your duty, as a first-generation Latina in college, is to help your family out of poverty. You’re able to have a college education because of their hard work and sacrifices.

Credit: Unsplash

Alvarado, who became a U.S. citizen in 2013 and has been an advocate for the Latinx community since the Donald Trump’s election win, noted, “This education is for you, for your papis, your siblings, your community.” She also expressed concern over your mental health which will be immensely affected by this new period in college. She reminds you, though, that you have much more strength than you know because your family has strength.

You will want to give up, she wrote. You will be frustrated, but rest assure your work in college will pay off.

Credit: Unsplash

It will feel like the future of your family depends on your studies, and it does. That means you have to know that your worth is what put you in college in the first place, she offered. That is what will pull you through your college days when you’re feeling frustrated and lonely.

Alvarado not only offered words that were 100 percent on point, but she also provided words of encouragement and support.

Credit: Unsplash

“You have people who LOVE you. You have little Latina girls that you are INSPIRING. You have abuelitos, abuelitas, tías, y tíos that BRAG about you cuando están chismeando. You have friends and neighbors that are so PROUD of you. Eres el orgullo de tu familia.”

She finished her touching post by giving tips which including a message to Latinas to call their abuela when they want to make comfort ford.

More than anything, Alvarado wants first-generation Latinas to know that their self-worth and that dedication makes us stand out above the privileged elites who take school for granted.

“You are the first, but not the last,” she wrote. “So unpack those two suitcases with pride. You are powerful.”

People loved her words of wisdom and shared their own stories of going away to college for the first time.

Ashley Cruz commented on Alvarado’s post by writing, “Oh freaaakk I remember moving to San Francisco with 4 maletas, $100 in my pocket, and no family to move me in but it is so fucking worth it.” Merrina Mendez-Itima wrote, “I seriously felt this so much! If you’re reading this you got this mama and you have a team behind you who did it before you!”

Share this with any college freshmen you know!

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