Yesterday UIC undocumented students came out at their campus to “denounce lingering fear as well as defy a culture of silence that disregards student voices.” This is Lulu Martinez’s story. Lulu was part of the DREAM 9 activists who started the Bring Them Home campaign at the border.
My name is Lulu and I am a transfer student in the Gender and Women’s Studies department at UIC. In 1993, my brother, mother, and I followed my father from Mexico to Chicago with aspirations of a better future. I was two years old. After twenty years, my parents struggle to make ends meet. My father’s hands are scarred and stained from years of long hours and manual labor as a car mechanic. My mother cleans homes despite the minimal pay and long shifts. They sacrifice so that my brother and I can survive, eat, and access education. We were raised believing that college is a vehicle to overcome a life lived in the shadows.
In 2012, after a two and a half year hiatus from my college education due to financial obstacles, I was finally able to continue my undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. However, every semester I have been forced to think about the possibility of dropping out of school and instead balance multiple jobs in order to afford the next semester. For an entire semester, I was expected to pay international student tuition rates. The few scholarships for which I am eligible are not enough to pay the costs of books and projects, and so I spend much of my time worrying that my parent’s sacrifice and efforts will be in vain.
It is through community work and my relationships to other undocumented students that I develop a language to understand the world and the ways in which my lived experiences are intertwined with systematic and institutional inequalities. Through collective struggle, I learned about historical freedom movements rooted in traditions of popular education, storytelling, music and art, and celebration as forms of resistance, survival and liberation. My belief in our self-determination informs my decision to pursue an education and it fuels our commitment in movements for social justice.
Just as we hold our representatives accountable, this University needs to be held accountable to all of its students and faculty. It is not enough to send out a memo that recognizes there was vandalism on a flier for an immigrant rights rally- an indication of anti-immigrant sentiment on campus. Student anti-discrimination policy does not ensure our graduation nor does it hold a critical analysis of why we have been forced to migrate in the first place. We need the University to open its resources to all of its students regardless of immigration status and provide the necessary support for our collective success.
My name is Lulu, I am an undocumented student and I too, am UIC.
[Photos via UIC Latino Cultural Center ]