I Told Harvard I Was an Undocumented Immigrant

Dario Guerrero, Washington Post, September 24, 2014

After I arrived home from soccer practice, the phone rang. “El Camino,” my mother said as she handed it to me, referring to a nearby community college. I was taking engineering courses there, offered in conjunction with my high school, but the woman from the registrar’s office had a problem: The Social Security number I had provided to receive college credit did not match my name, and if I couldn’t provide a valid number, I’d have to pay almost $2,000 for the classes I’d taken.

Why, I asked my parents, had my Social Security number been rejected? They told me they had given me my little brother’s number. It was a simple explanation, taking no more than 10 seconds in Spanish:

“Son, we overstayed our visa when you were three. You don’t have a social security number.”

I hadn’t known until then I was undocumented. I was 16, a high school junior, with big ambitions. Was I going to have to give them all up?

*       *       *

My friend Oscar, too, learned he was undocumented at the beginning of high school. {snip}

{snip}

It was possible, we learned, to be admitted to most public and private colleges regardless of our legal status. But paying for them was a different matter. At the time, there was no way to receive financial aid to state schools unless you had a Social Security number. A few private institutions offered varying amounts of money to admitted students, from small stipends to a full ride. Oscar and I decided that no school was worth bankrupting our families, so we set our sights on the narrow band of “need-blind” private schools–ones that dispensed as much money as students needed could prove they needed–including all of the Ivy League universities.

A few private institutions would also pay to fly in poor high school seniors trying to decide if their school was right for him or her. I qualified. These were mostly small liberal arts colleges, but they gave us a chance to leave Los Angeles and discover what college would be like. I visited five schools–MIT, College of the Atlantic, Williams College, Wesleyan University, and Washington and Lee University–each time waiting until I could tell a financial aid officer in person about my immigration status. All but two schools, MIT and Williams (which worried about losing federal grants), told me to apply anyway.

This broke my heart, because walking around MIT convinced me to become an engineer. I knew immediately that it was the place for me. It was massive and overwhelming, and I wanted nothing more than to conquer it. But the financial aid officer told me on the last day of my visitors’ program that I could not legally be admitted. {snip}

{snip}

My dream crushed, I left the office in a daze and started walking down Massachusetts Avenue. Without really planning it, I found myself in the middle of Harvard. Since I was there, I found the Admissions and Financial Aid office and walked in to tell them the truth, too. An officer agreed to see me. My meeting was brief, but it suddenly reversed all the self-doubt: “If you are admitted to Harvard College,” she said, “we will meet your full financial need without regard to your legal status.” Not only would they follow the too-good-to-be-true need-blind policy I’d read about, but they didn’t care about immigration status.

{snip}

A few weeks later, Oscar and I sat down, college applications in hand, to share what we had learned on our travels. We created a Web site for other undocumented students with everything we had learned by e-mail, phone, and in person. We got to work on our applications. Although we were undocumented applicants, most schools still asked to see some proof of income so they could determine our financial-aid award. Thankfully, my parents had filed taxes since the year we arrived; I sent our latest returns.

I applied to every Ivy League school, the University of Chicago, Georgetown, Wesleyan, Washington and Lee, and College of the Atlantic. On Jan. 11, as I sat in the library doing research for a government class project, I got a call from a Massachusetts area code. The Harvard Admissions Committee had voted to send me a likely letter of admission. (Oscar later got a call from Cornell.) And they gave me a full ride. This meant I wouldn’t have to worry about student loans or quarterly tuition payments; that I always had a place to stay away from home; that I could travel every semester, on Harvard’s dime, back to California; that my parents would never have to worry whether I’d finish school. Those are luxuries few people, documented or not, ever have.

I used to think that being undocumented was a disadvantage to me. I used to mourn the fact that I was different. But ultimately I realize that it was because of, not in spite of, my identity–as an undocumented Chicano–that I was been able to do what I did. Being something different in the socioeconomic fabric of the United States gave me the perspective I have.

{snip}

Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • Why aren’t his parents being strung up on a Federal rap of SS/SSN fraud?

    • Oil Can Harry

      Indicted by Obama and Holder?

      There’s more of a chance that the sun will rise in the west tomorrow.

    • propagandaoftruth

      Gee effin dee, man. They flew this kid out for free, fed him, feted him…

      He not only gets freebies, he EXPECTS freebies…

      I’m supposed to feel sorry for this entitled feeling spoiled ALIEN?

      You got any kids? Think they’d fly your kids on an expense paid tour of Ivy League schools? Would they fly in some poor Appalachian White boy with a dream?

      Some people’s dreams are others’ nightmares.

    • MBlanc46

      Surely, you jest. They’ll likely be pushed to the head of the line for naturalization. After all, they’ve brought us a “Dreamer”.

    • John Smith

      That’s only for white people. White people commit a crime simply by existing in the country their ancestors founded.

  • D.B. Cooper

    I have a lot of college aged relatives who think they’re smarter than me. I made sure I linked to this page, so all of them could see it. I told them this is where the money for education goes.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    “Son, we overstayed our visa when you were three. You don’t have a social security number.”

    So his parents violated their own children’s trust, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for them?

    But ultimately I realize that it was because of, not in spite of, my identity–as an undocumented Chicano–that I was been able to do what I did.

    It seems that every American citizen who has been denied entry into Harvard or any other university should now have grounds for a lawsuit.

  • Truthseeker

    Liberals want so badly not to be unkind to any designated victim groups that they overcompensate by being excessively unfair in their favor. Something is wrong with this picture.

  • MekongDelta69

    I’m an “undocumented” AmRen poster.

    Does that entitle me to one ‘free’ DVD or something?!

    “Nope”

    • Mark

      That’s because here at AmRen we are all evil, white racists without any compassion.

  • dd121

    I guess we can all hum a cheerful tune as we watch our country sink beneath the waves.

  • Luca

    I certainly hope they will also provide him with food, books, housing and a new car. Heavens forbid he might actually have to work his way through college. What a burden that would be.

  • TruthBeTold

    A self-serving PR stunt by Harvard.

    Their ‘progressive’ liberal stock just shot through the roof.

    • Homo_Occidentalis

      Their probably angling for a big endowment from their pal Zuckerboig or any of the other pro-invasion Fortune 500 Alumni.

    • Tarczan

      This is the college version of a movie star adopting an African child. It gives them street cred with their liberal buddies.

  • connorhus

    I basically did the same thing to a couple of private sector businesses. I would put two resumes in, both the same but one had a name that looked like a Black Man’s and a different cell phone number and address. I then would wait and see which one got an interview call. Guess which one ALWAYS got a call for an interview? Hint it wasn’t my real name. Also worked the same way when I used my ex-wife’s name btw.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Minority hiring scams, indeed. I have a cousin in Denver who was unemployed and underemployed for several years. She is half-Korean but always checked “white” on the applications. Then she began checking the Asian box or writing “Korean” on the blank. She dialed me up and told me her “trick” worked in checking Korean on the form. She got several interviews and job offers as a result.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    Oscar and I decided that no school was worth bankrupting our families….

    Bankrupting your families? No concern for American taxpayers that paid for this criminal’s K-12 education.

    How many American families (like mine) have had to sacrifice to put their kids through college while illegals don’t have to pay one dime? Illegals now have access to state money for college in California.

    At least five states—California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington—currently allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid.

    What this ingrate has done is take a limited college slot that should have gone to an American citizen.

    I also noticed he’s gone from studying engineering… to majoring in visual and environmental studies.

    Guess he couldn’t handle the math.

    • evilsandmich

      Yes, “our families”, bankrupting “your” family is perfectly okay with him.

  • Kenneth Arrow

    People really need to learn the concept of opportunity cost. This is essential.

    People who don’t understand the concept, see one more happy story.

    People familiar with the concept know that one more American was cheated out of his happy story. Plus somebody will have to pay for all of this luxury.

  • Giovanni704

    “Son, we overstayed our visa when you were three. You don’t have a social security number.”
    See, they sound just like your white mom and dad when they speak.

  • IKUredux

    I would like to get a degree in becoming an undocumented (AKA illegal) alien. Now, just exactly what must I do to qualify? Let’s see…turn brown, turn black haired and brown eyed, have an I.Q. of probably at least one standard deviation less than Whites, appear pitiful, have parents who broke the laws of the U.S. So, if I manage to pull that off, could I get a graduate degree paid for by Harvard?

  • kikz2

    ‘scuze me while i puke…………….

  • LHathaway

    Wow, he actually was grateful. And he’s spreading the word about Americans goodness. Either so every intelligent illegal can get into college, or so everyone will Think that at least sometimes America can be fair. The fact that he sounds like he has a gun pointed to his head, or his next student aid check is dependent upon him finishing this letter, makes him sound a bit less sincere. We’re onto that in these here parts. You can’t get any fast ones over on us. Except for our jobs and our female HS classmates.

  • Ngati Pakeha

    And people wonder why they come over the border like a deluge.

  • Lee_CPA

    Well, isn’t this special. A poor illegal alien get jetted across the country to visit some of the top schools in the country. He applies and gets an offer for a full-ride scholarship. He will probably receive “special care” to ensure he doesn’t flunk out. He will graduate and be inundated with offers from companies who are trying to “increase their diversity”. The politically correct will point to this story as evidence of the need to pass some type of amnesty for the hordes of millions who violated our laws and national soverignty.
    .
    Meanwhile, his white classmate is getting rejection letters because the colleges are passing over whites in favor of “diversity”. If he gets accepted, no special scholarships for him – full tuition every step of the way. When he graduates, once again, he will be passed over for the sake of “diversity”.
    .
    But yet, minorities are the ones claiming discrimination………
    ..

    • Jimmy Joseph

      Unconnected, Straight White males are NOT WELCOME at Harvard or other Ivies.

      Almost impossible for them to get into these “institutions”.

  • Rick O’Shea

    The fact is, places like Harvard (and indeed places like the United States of America) were created by and expressly for the benefit of white gentiles.

    One of the most perverse things to happen to white people is that we allowed ourselves, and everyone else, to get around to the idea that everything we make is for EVERYONE. It’s like the guy who spends his own money to buy a really nice stapler, lets a coworker use it once because his is broken… and three months later he can’t even find his own nice stapler anymore because somehow along the way, the entire office got the idea that it was the “community stapler” and have been passing it around, and putting a lot of wear on it because they didn’t buy it, and therefore aren’t invested in keeping it nice.

    Our heroic stapler buyer was fine with a bit of controlled generosity from time to time, on his terms, but that generosity was reacted to like blood in the water by the sharks around him. It was seized upon as a weakness, and exploited to the point where now he doesn’t even get to use his own stapler.

    I’m being a bit silly with that example, but you take my meaning. Harvard was made by whites, for whites, in a white country which was also made by whites, for whites.

    We are a naturally generous people, to a fault. We were okay with the odd novelty person from another culture here and there. We could even see the value in letting people from another culture have positions as professors and thus expose our white children to interesting interactions and information they might not otherwise have had a chance to see.

    But that generosity triggered a feeding frenzy and now it’s gotten to the point where we’re expected to gleefully celebrate being on a trajectory to be a minority IN OUR OWN COUNTRIES!!! That is the very definition of madness. We’re literally told by the institutions (academia, media) which are meant to reflect our values, that us dwindling to abused minority status in our own nations (even in our homeland of Europe) is a positive thing, and that if anything we should be looking for ways to accelerate that process. Mix with others, grant amnesty, be the only group of people worrying about overpopulation… adopt, preferably a nonwhite baby… if you’re a white woman, burn up all your fertile years in the rat race instead of having kids… etc.

    It’s time to stand up, go find our damned stapler, and yank it back. It’s time to tell all of our coworkers to get their own damned staplers or take better care of the ones they have. And if we find that they’ve wrecked our nice stapler beyond all repair, it’s time to buy a new one – and be less generous with it this time.

    • Mary

      This illustrates our unbelievable predicament better than just about anything I’ve seen. It is so outrageous, it’s almost difficult to grasp that it’s true and will get much worse. I have three White boys under the age of ten. I’m going to have to explain to them how we started out as a nation, and where many of our stupid/selfish/delusional
      countrymen wish for us – and White males in particular – to end up.

  • Fr. John+

    “This meant I wouldn’t have to worry about student loans or quarterly tuition payments; that I always had a place to stay away from home; that I could travel every semester, on Harvard’s dime, back to California; that my parents would never have to worry whether I’d finish school.”

    When I think of how my janitor father, and my sickly, unemployed mother, begged, borrowed, and prayed for months to send me to private school, only to have all our monies exhausted, and end up at a lousy Cal State College, because the damn FAFSA made us social pariahs, because my parents ‘made too much money’ (huh?) – they said, while THIS goes on for some beaner illegal !?!?!??!?!

    And that, inability to pay that onerous student loan was delayed/dragged out by twenty-five years, due to inability to get a job in my field, after that costly education, because I was White, and therefore un-hireable?!?!?!? (Think of the Bakke decision- the last time a White had Affirmative Action work FOR us)

    I now understand why guns and ammo sales have gone through the roof by angry White Americans. You can only shaft someone so long, before they REVOLT- just like they did in Lexington and Concord. Deo Volente!

  • Paul Lycurgues

    Well ,at least the kid can write, is aiming at an engineering degree (very respectable) and his parents do pay taxes. In other words, not the worst kind of undocumented alien.

    Still proves how breaking the law in the U.S can pay off though ; hardly anything to celebrate.

  • Reason number 84371572043780945809134850 to never donate money to a university.

  • gemjunior

    This article enraged me. My husband and I work hard to put our son through college (engineering) and the bills are astronomical. Too bad none of the white boys his age that have been born here don’t get “the full ride” – we work to pay the taxes that are so foolishly given in freebies to these kinds of people. How much longer are we going to take it? It will only become worse and worse. Unless the bottom falls out sooner, we will continue being abused by our own government until our actual food and shelter are taken to give to some other group, preferably brown or black.

  • Raymond Kidwell

    Thanks I’m going to see what I can do in regards to passing as a minority

  • Raymond Kidwell

    I’m curious what his SAT scores were. There are a lot of good books written by people from Harvard. There isn’t much variation in their SAT score by ethnicity but asians and indians score highest, not whites. If he truly is top level then they have reason to take him. They are probably more desperate for high scoring minorities than for high scoring whites or asians

  • JJCULLEN

    He’ll be the new latin lover on campus.Party hard Amigo