Editors’ note: It is the policy of the News not to publish anonymous columns, but in this case, an exception has been made. The name of the writer has been kept confidential based on their concern for retaliation against them and their family if identified. The News has independently verified the identity of the author.
At the recent town hall hosted by Students Unite Now, or SUN, I was heartened to see my friends and classmates show up for each other as over 200 students sat in solidarity. I chose not to share my own story then. Even now, I must write anonymously due to my fear of speaking out as an undocumented woman with an undocumented family who lives in the South. My undocumentation exists as part of the racist structure of this country that created and maintains a white majority and supremacy through the violent oppression of black, brown and indigenous people. It affects me regardless of where I am, whether it is back home or here at Yale, where we cannot let ourselves lose sight of the material scarcity that would be alleviated for marginalized students and their families through the elimination of the Student Income Contribution.
I have been fighting, as I always must, as part of SUN to challenge a white imperialist institution’s grip on the rest of my life and the lives of friends that I love. The SIC makes it harder for my friends to live their lives each day, exacerbating the difficulty and confusion of young adulthood in visceral ways. For me, the SIC compounds on existing uncertainty that I have as a student reliant on DACA. The United States government granted me DACA status through a fraught program that views a certain group of undocumented young people as deserving, while leaving most undocumented people without the protections I have now — people that include my parents. Yale’s financial aid policies determined that I was eligible to pay the SIC the moment I gained legal employment authorization.
What Yale forgets, however, is that my legal status under DACA has an uncertain future. My precarious situation means that I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to work. If I lose employment status, I have no experience navigating the world with the bravery, savvy and caution it takes to work illegally in this country. When I gave my address and personal information to the government to receive DACA, I took a risk. What I got in return from Yale was a de facto requirement to work around 200 hours every school year, for money that I can no longer budget towards my long-term interests. This time is precious to me, especially because my DACA protection has an expiration date — after that date, I lose my legal status to work and access higher-wage jobs. Right now, I am able to earn a much higher wage than both of my parents and would dedicate my wages to help them out, if it weren’t for the SIC.
Every day at Yale, I live in panic. I walk to class under the weight of fear every day: I am afraid my parents will be deported; I am afraid I will never be able to use my bachelor’s degree; I am afraid that I will be used as a bargaining chip against other undocumented people in the upcoming elections; I am afraid that I will crumble under the combined weight of my fellow students’ apathy despite the many that continue to speak up.
While this degree of urgency is heightened by national politics, these thoughts are not wholly new to me. My years of exclusion from resources freely accessed by my peers exposed me to the deceit behind meritocracy from an early age. Indeed, my degree of access to college has always been inherently linked to my immigration status, just as any citizen’s access is colored by their citizenship. I am ineligible for federal financial aid and the vast majority of merit scholarships. My parents lacked access to a steady wage during my high school years, and refused to allow me to work until I could do so legally. I’ve always seen how some resources are only meant for some people, even as we are all expected to meet the same metrics in order to be deserving. I’m frustrated and done with this fabricated environment where Yale pretends that it doesn’t have enough resources to allow students of color and low-income backgrounds to thrive after it admits them.
It is time for Yale, an institution stitched into the racist fabric of this nation, to answer for its policies. Yale makes a dangerous and irresponsible wager about my life and the lives of my friends when it promises us full financial aid until we receive our financial aid package and discover the SIC, especially during such a hostile moment for undocumented students. Without the SIC, I would be able to fully engage in the community, learning even more from the New Haven organizers I have come to trust and admire. I don’t want to keep spending my limited work authorization bearing witness to the way that Yale refuses to use the endowment, which itself is partially built off of profit from painful histories, towards ensuring that low-income students have what they need to feel secure here. I believe that we should have what we need, not because of what we may “deserve”, but because people should have their needs met when it is possible for them to be met. Yale and other peer institutions continue to boast about full financial aid. As we enter another admissions season of them using this claim to coax students into their gates, I can’t help but wonder when they will actually begin to provide it, for real.