identities

As A Student In High School, She And Her Counselors Knew Nothing Could Get In Her Path To Success Then They Learned She Was Undocumented

As a senior in high school, Stephanie Wall was a standout student juggling memberships in five different honor societies and tackling multiple Advanced Placement classes. Her hard work and ambition made it clear that she was going places, and the stack of applications for colleges and scholarships her counselor had collected for her were the next step in getting there.

All she needed was a social security number to get started.

Then Wall learned she was undocumented when she asked her parents for help with college applications.

provided by Stephanie Wall

She never had a reason to believe she was undocumented. Her parents came to the United States from Colombia with she and her siblings in tow. Wall was four years old. For the most part, she had lived what she viewed as a pretty normal life.

“When I found out I was undocumented it was like a veil was pulled over my head,” Wall says.

Recent estimates of the undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. put the number at 11 million in 2016.

On the night she asked her parents for her social security number and learned that she didn’t have one, Wall was disoriented. Her status had suddenly put a titanic blockade between her and her dreams.

“It was a very difficult time and it was incredibly confusing as well,” says Wall. “I was raised here, yet I hit a barrier that I never expected.”

The next day Wall went to her counselor hoping that not all of her aspirations were over.

Then her counselor’s face fell.

“She said she was sorry, but that the opportunities for me had been cut drastically. There was nothing she could do,” recalls Wall.

When it came to college, Wall, who once had a stack of choices, was now extremely limited in options. Her access to financial aid was reduced to private scholarships and now she had to apply to schools as an international student, meaning tuition would cost nearly four times the rate for residents. Then there was the matter of facing colleges that refused to accept undocumented students at all.

Her only viable option was a school with a reputation for opening its doors to undocumented students.

She was admitted to Miami Dade College’s honors program, where she once again excelled in her classes. But she struggled to keep up with the finances. The school’s honors program typically covers student tuition and also provides a stipend, but because she entered as an international student only her stipend was covered. Finding a job to support herself as an undocumented person was also hardly feasible.

Then she met a student who introduced her to Students Working For Equal Rights (or SWER).

Stephanie Wall with members of SWER / provided by Stephanie Wall

The youth-led group works to bring awareness to Miami communities about the importance of immigration reform and equal access to education. Wall came out publicly with her status and spoke about it openly at civic engagement events and eventually made television and radio appearances.

“We were upset and we felt betrayed by the system,” Wall says. “I felt that coming out publicly as undocumented and unafraid would encourage other immigrants to come out of the shadows to show our country just how dire the situation had become… I wanted to do something about it, For myself, my family, and for every immigrant whose wings are clipped by our broken immigration system.”

Then, a month before graduating with her Associate’s degree, Wall received an official letter from the government.

The words “Welcome to the United States of America” topped the page, indicating that she’s now a Legal Permanent Resident and has a green card. For Wall, the timing of her adjustment still remains an enigma.

“We had waited for 15 years, and finally, I was accepted. Why now?” Walls says still stunned and relieved even six years later. “I find myself in an incredibly privileged position, especially now with our current administration’s open hostility towards immigrants and their lack of understanding of who we are and why we matter.”

These days, Wall no longer works directly with SWER but does work with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, its parent organizer.

Stephanie Wall graduating with her BS from University of Central Florida/ provided by Stephanie Wall

She provides Know Your Rights workshops for undocumented communities and reviews documentation for those preparing applications to adjust their status, and for those detained by immigration enforcement as well. She also works with counselors at public schools, providing them with information on post-secondary education opportunities for undocumented students in Florida.

For families and others burdened by the weight of their own statuses, Wall’s message is clear.

“You are not alone. Find ways to be active in your community because we need you,” she says. “Strong and resilient leaders such as yourself drive social change. You have the right to fight for yourself and for the rights of others. You matter. We matter. We always have and we always will.”


Read: 2018 Kicks Off On The Right Foot With Hollywood’s Time’s Up Movement Led By Celebs and Leaders of Hollywood

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A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Detained By Border Patrol On Her Way To School

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A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Detained By Border Patrol On Her Way To School

A 9-year-old U.S. citizen was separated from her mother for 36 hours after agents at the border accused her of lying about her citizenship.

Like thousands of students in our country, Julia Isabel Amparo Medina’s daily commute requires her to cross the U.S. border.

The fourth-grade student attends Nicoloff Elementary School in San Ysidro, California and was in a carpool to school from her home in Tijuana when she ran into traffic. Medina, was commuting to school in a car driven by her mother’s friend Michelle Cardena, Cardena’s two children and her own older 14-year-old brother, Oscar. When the long line to get into the U.S. seemed to be jampacked upon their 4 a.m arrival, Cardenas instructed the kids in her car to walk to the border. She assured them that when they reached it, she would call them an Uber to get them the rest of the way to their school.

But Medina and her never made it across the border or to school that day.

According to the New York Times who talked to a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, two Amparo and her brother arrived at one of the San Ysidro port of entry facilities for pedestrians at 10:15 a.m. last Monday.

Upon their arrival, Amparo and her brother presented their U.S. passports to a CBP officer who soon accused her of being someone else. Note: Amparo’s passport image which was taken years before so she did not look exactly like herself. They also accused her brother of smuggling.

A CBP spokesperson has said that Amparo “provided inconsistent information during her inspection, and CBP officers took the 9-year-old into custody to perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship.”

After CBP officers the confirmed that her brother was a U.S. citizen, he was permitted to enter the U.S while his sister stayed behind. It wasn’t until 6:30 pm on Tuesday, that Amparo was confirmed to be a U.S. citizen as well and was released and admitted to the U.S. to her mother.

Speaking to NBC7, Amparo said she was “scared” of her detention and that she was “sad because I didn’t have my mom or my brother. I was completely by myself.”

According to Amparo’s mother Thelma Galaxia, her daughter claims that she was told by an officer that she and her brother would be released if she admitted to being her cousin. Galaxia claims that officers also convinced her son Oscar to sign a document that Amparo was his cousin and not his sister.

When Galaxia was alerted that her children had been detained she contacted the Mexican consulate.

After being notified by the consulate that her daughter would be released at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. While the family felt relieved to be grateful to be reunited with their daughter, Galaxia says the separation should never have happened.

Over the weekend, Twitter was swift to express their outrage over the incident.

Some even expressed their dismay of having a similar situation happen to them.

Many are using the incident as an example of the racial issues plaguing so many U.S. citizens like Amparo.

So many of the comments included outside opinions from those who have yet to experience the direct targetting of ICE.

Over all, nearly everyone was quick to point out the saddest aspect of Amparo’s experience.

Read: Preschool Students Are Doing Active Shooter Drills And I Guess This Is The New Normal Now

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America Ferrera Brings Actors Across The Border To Visit Migrant Shelters

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America Ferrera Brings Actors Across The Border To Visit Migrant Shelters

America Ferrera has never been a celebrity to stay quiet in the face of injustice, so it’s no surprise that the actress-activist has boldly responded to the Trump administration’s policy requiring migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico.

Last week, the Superstore star led a group of actors, including Gina Rodriguez, Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Wilmer Valderrama, Roselyn Sanchez and Kendrick Sampson, across the southern border to a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.

There, the group learned how the policy was impacting migrants while speaking directly with immigration lawyers and shelter managers as well as families and children. They hope through this real-life education that they will become better equipped to challenge the Trump administration in the US.

“It is easy for me to look at these human beings and see myself. … This could very easily have been my reality in this lifetime,” the Honduran-American actress told the Associated Press about the trip.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy limits the amount of asylum requests border patrol can attend to per day. The process, which has also forced refugees, including thousands of Central American families who have filed for sanctuary from violence and poverty in their home countries, to stay in Mexico, has slowed down the process and created case backlogs in the immigration system and overcrowding in shelters in Mexican border towns.

“We were able to bear witness to how the current administration is treating refugee families. We MUST demand better,” Washington said in an Instagram post. “Let me be clear: it is legal to seek asylum. When people cross our borders, their human rights come with them. We must protect those human rights.”

@kerrywashington / Instagram

According to NBC News, the visit was organized by nonprofits Families Belong Together and Harness, an organization started by Ferrera, Valderrama and Ryans Piers.

Jessica Morales Rocketto, who heads Families Belong Together, told the news outlet that one of the women she met at the shelter had been waiting with her toddler since November to apply for asylum.

“People get to the border and think that’s the end of the journey, but it’s only the beginning,” Morales Rocketto said.

Read: 20 Major Immigration Facts the American Public Refuses to Hear

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