Undocumented Kenyan immigrant share stories at Amherst College
Amherst College professor and host of New England Public Radio’s “In Contrast,” Ilan Stavans hosted an event with five undocumented immigrants to engage in a conversation around undocumented immigration under the Trump administration.
The event was held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Holden Experimental Theater and is part four in the five part series ‘Trump: Point/Counterpoint,’ which attempts to address sociopolitical divisions in our country.
The event began with each of the guests telling their story of how they arrived to America.
Brianda Reyes, an Amherst College alum, emigrated from Mexico when she was only nine years old in order to seek better medical treatment for her brother, who suffers from a disease that affects his nervous system.
Reyes then spoke about the lack of financial aid she was awarded by colleges. Due to her undocumented status it was nearly impossible for her to get any scholarships or financial assistance. Reyes was forced to send a statement to the colleges addressing her issue.
“I was very on track about reaching out for help because I knew my situation was very complicated,” Reyes said. “I got into other schools who said, ‘unfortunately, we don’t have financial aid for people like you.’”
The second guest, Bryan Torres, an immigrant from El Salvador, came to this country when he was only 12 years old, and settled in Northampton, Massachusetts.
“I had to put [in] some extra work to come to Amherst… and then get used to the status of being here,” Torres said. “And being a student here, it was really hard.”
Currently he is protected under the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The third guest, Yvonne Thomas, alum of Hampshire College, was born in a small Kenyan village.
To escape poverty and violence, Thomas and her mother moved to America, where they were forced to live with family members who treated them poorly.
After a few years, Thomas and her mother moved out into their own home; in order to afford the house, Thomas’ mother was forced to work 80 hours a week.
In the summer before her senior year of high school, Thomas found out that she was undocumented. However, because of DACA, Thomas and her family were able to get a lawyer to protect her.
Thomas was accepted into the University of Massachusetts. However, she could not find a co-signer for her financial aid package. Because of this, she was not able to receive any aid and instead attended Holyoke Community College,. She worked 50 hours a week to pay through school.
Thomas is now married and plans to go to medical school.
The fourth guest, Angelica Merino Monge, came to America from El Salvador. She was able to receive DACA status in 2013. She described the process as “highly difficult.”
Due to her immigration status, Merino Monge has a hard time receiving financial aid from four-year colleges.
The fifth undocumented immigrant featured in the event, Edwin Cruz, came to this country when he was only 15 years old from Mexico to escape gang violence.
Cruz’s father came to this country borrowing $9,000 and he became a DACA status recipient in 2013.
“Being a first generation immigrant is hard, whether you are documented or undocumented,” Cruz said.
Cruz currently studies radiology at Holyoke Community College. He applied for a green card once and was rejected. He then applied for another and is now waiting for a response.
Alvin Buyinza can be reached at [email protected]