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Fighting for our futures

| Thursday, March 26, 2015

My twin sister and I were excited about moving on to campus. As freshmen, we had a million questions running through our heads. What should we bring? Were the football games going to be as exciting and wild as we imagined? Were we going to survive several months without delicious home-cooked meals? How would it be like to live hundreds of miles away from home? As time got closer to moving in, and things began to fall into place, these worries faded to a single thought: What would college be like as an undocumented student?

My sister and I were born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States at the age of five. We moved into a tiny house in Gardnerville, Nevada, and went to a local elementary school, where we learned how to speak English through the Head Start Program. The first year of school was hard because we could only speak Spanish; however, as time passed, my sister and I became proficient in English and some of the best students in our class. Through middle school and high school, we continued to excel academically but did not know if we would ever go to college.

We both knew we were undocumented since fourth grade. We didn’t quite understand what being undocumented was, but we were told not to mention it to anyone else. No one really asked about our citizenship status until we were in high school. Maria and I were sitting at dinner with our friends when one of them asked where we were from. Indifferently, one of us replied that we were born in Mexico, hoping that the conversation would end there. Unfortunately, one of the girls abruptly turned towards us and asked, “Are you guys citizens?” Before either of us could answer, another girl turned towards her and replied, “Of course they are. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so classy.” Only a few people knew about our immigration status. If we told others, we ran the risk of facing hostility from students and teachers.

When we received DACA status in 2012, everything changed for us. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and we are also commonly known as DREAMers. With DACA, we can work legally in the U.S. and are given temporary cards that must be renewed every few years. DACA made college a possibility, but it was not guaranteed. Due to our status, we could not apply to most state schools, and we were limited to a few colleges. When we were accepted into the University of Notre Dame, we were given the opportunity to pursue our interest in chemical engineering.

This year, there are 10 DACA freshmen, including Mauricio Segovia, who is pursuing a major in physics, and Siegfried Hall president Carlos Covarrubias, who is majoring in finance and economics. One of our greatest experiences as a group was meeting Fr. Hesburgh before his passing. He told us about his greatest accomplishments, including the acceptance of women into the University. Fr. Hesburgh told our group that we will also make the University proud for accepting us. Having the support from a man who has faced much opposition in his life has given us the courage to tell others about being DACA students. Every time we walk by signs of the quote, “If Father Hesburgh was for you, you didn’t care who was against you,” we are reminded that we have a responsibility to share our story in hopes that future DACA students will be more welcomed into the University.

As DACA students, we want to share our story with others. Immigration reform has been a big political issue at the federal level, and people often forget about the stories behind the issue. Although not everyone supports DACA, we hope that students are ready to hear our story and learn about the push-and-pull factors that cause families to emigrate from their home countries. Faculty members have constructed a strong support system at ND for DACA students, which we are thankful for. We work hard so that one day we will be able to give the University as much as it has given us. Thank you, Notre Dame, for fighting for our futures.

Maria A. Munoz-Robles

Pasquerilla West


Brizzia G. Munoz-Robles



Mar. 25

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Leonor Wangensteen-Moya

    Thank you Maria and Brizzia for coming to Notre Dame and for sharing your story! It has been a pleasure to get to know you and support your journey.

  • Isaias Guerrero

    Dear Maria and Brizzia, thank you for sharing your story. It is good to know we are not alone and have a whole community back home and here that loves us, supports us and is ready for us to keep building the social fabric of justice. In honor to you, here is my story.

    UNDOCUMENTED, UNAFRAID. My journey in Notre Dame as a proud undocumented Colombian.

    For the first time I went to a football game. And it was a Notre Dame football game. The journey was incredible since it was truly a cultural experience. It was a moment full of interesting contradictions and euphoria. The Fighting Irish get the name part from the tenacity in the field but also, to rescue the tenacity of the Irish Immigrant population that at the time of the 1800s was discriminated and segregated much like immigrants are now.

    All around, you see people with the latest t-shirts, caps and painted faces anxious to see the all American past time of football.

    Before, we got to see inside the Golden Dome where paintings of Christopher Columbus were present celebrating the coming of the Spanish to the Americas. What an amazing display of remembrance to the legacies that left so much pain into America, the continent that saw the bleeding of millions of its indigenous sons and daughters in the name of religion and gold.

    We also ran into Fr. Hesburgh who I was incredibly grateful to meet. A stern look and warm hand shake transported me to the moment he held hands with Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago in 1964 with 54,000 people to demand for civil rights for African Americans. It is thanks to that man, that I am here. Because of his vision for a world with out nuclear weapons and filled with peace. It is thanks to him that I am here studying International Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute.

    We went in the stadium, waves of blue covered 80,000 fans that were ready to see their team win. As it was, the game of strategy and might produced a victory. The presence of the military was surprising. Many honors to the armed forces was given, a correlation between war and the game created a subtle acceptance to it. The message seems to be clear. We fight, in the field and overseas. The U.S way.

    And me, one of the first 13 undocumented students that Notre Dame has ever accepted (decades later compared to other catholic counterparts) I find my Latin American historical voice yelling at the celebration of Columbus, my spirit uplifted by having met Fr. Hesburgh and my heart filled with happiness for my new friends who bring their visions to bring peace into their countries and the world. My brain is filled with ideas on how to not forget that it is those closest to the pain, that should guide the decisions, and those with the most resources the ones that need to listen.

    As my brain keeps creating loops because of the contradictions present, I am with a heart filled with inspiring stories from those i have met so far, and an open eye to continue opening doors and understand that I can not be guided by what shines, but by the stories those that have transformed pain into life and breath into song.

    • Maria Munoz-Robles

      Hi Isaias, thank you so much for sharing your story! My sister and I would love to meet with you before the end of the semester if time permits and hear more about your experience here at Notre Dame.

  • Marisel Moreno

    Dear Maria and Brizzia, Thank you for sharing your story with the Notre Dame community. It’s important to hear your voices in order to create awareness about the challenges that DREAMers face. We are happy to have you as part of the ND family.