Undocumented UC Berkeley Student Refuses to Live in Fear

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Juan Prieto, a DACA student, will graduate from UC Berkeley in May 2017. (Photo credit: Chaz Hubbard)

When I was eight, I crossed the border using my cousin’s papers. In other words, I came to this country pretending to be someone I’m not.

And it didn’t end there. I went through life acting as if I was just another average citizen even though I’m undocumented.

The act was hard, given that my legal status was such a huge part of my life. UC Berkeley was the first school in the nation to support undocumented students, and it’s where I stopped pretending about my legal status.

I began to truly believe I was undocumented and unafraid, as the chant goes.

But that’s changed since Donald Trump commanded the national spotlight.

At UC Berkeley, it’s become increasingly dangerous for undocumented students who are outspoken. Last June, I received an anonymous email threat. It began with the words, “This University should be ashamed to have someone like you.” It went on to say that my family and I had been reported to immigration officials, also known as ICE.

And last week, my undocumented peers and I felt vulnerable when alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at Berkeley. He planned on launching a campaign against undocumented students that night.

I spent much of that evening locked in my room, afraid to go out. Afraid that being undocumented and vocal would make me a target for his followers. I blame UC Berkeley for enabling Milo Yiannopoulos and his fringe form of hate. At the University of Washington a protestor was shot at a Milo event. At the University of Wisconsin, a transgender student was outed.

Fearing an attack over their reputation, I believe that UC Berkeley allowed the event to go on, at the expense of students’ safety.

Now as the nation looks at free speech and who has it, it feels ironic. Because of the fear of deportation, undocumented immigrants like me feel more silenced than ever.

I graduate this May, and I’m worried that work and plans for law school might become impossible under this administration. I refuse, however, to return to the shadows in fear.

I refuse to pretend to be anyone but myself any longer.


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