– By Bupendra Ram
(Ethnically Indian, Bupendra Ram was born in Fiji and came to the United States at two-years of age. Six months later, he became undocumented. At the age of 23, he became Undocumented and Unafraid. His mission in the undocumented movement, as a person from the South Asian community, is to be the proof that immigration is a global issue affecting the lives of people everywhere. Also, that there are intersections in the undocumented movement like LGBTQ issues. Bupendra can be reached at Bupendra.firstname.lastname@example.org)
A year ago the United States Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act. I sat at home watching them play with my future. I sat in disbelief as they made me feel less than human. With each vote, my accomplishments as an undocumented student disappeared into thin air. That day I was left with only one choice: to come out of the shadows and share my story- a story about an undocumented American who is full of accomplishments and perseverance.
My goal for 2011 was to immerse myself into the DREAM Act movement. I turned to Google to help me find clubs or organizations that would connect me to the DREAM Act movement; I found The Dream Team Los Angeles and The Orange County Dream Team. Then, I turned to Facebook and added anyone who was even remotely involved with the Dream Act and networked with them to participate in as many events as I could. I started to attend Dream Team meetings; I signed up for as many workshops as I could; I attended as many different committee meetings; I educated myself on social movements; I appeared in a few DreamersAdrift videos; I became comfortable being in a different environment all the time; and I even improved my Spanish a little.
From the get go, I was fortunate that I met all the right people from the beginning. When people started speaking in Spanish at events, someone would always lean over and translate. I never felt out-of-place or excluded. I found myself surrounded by people who showed me there is nothing to fear. I became inspired and empowered by DREAMers; I started to speak at rallies; I voiced my opinion during meetings; I started to help organize events.
I came to the United States when I was two-years-old. Ethnically, I am Indian, but I was born in the Fiji Islands. As I looked around meetings and rallies, I noticed that my community was not being represented. I started to become more public about my status as an undocumented American, in hopes that I could inspire other undocumented South Asian students to pursue a higher education or to be part of the movement. My story was published in the Daily Breeze and my friends spread it like wildfire using social media.
I started to network with South Asian organizers and I found the South Asian Network (SAN). I have been in touch with them in hopes of reaching out to more undocumented students. I was fortunate to have a high school teacher who knew about the Dream Act and AB540 and help me get the information I needed know. The South Asian community finds conversations about an individual’s undocumented status to be taboo. My plan is to go into South Asian spaces and have these uncomfortable conversations because even with our undocumented status, there are ways for us to achieve our dreams. I want to be like my high school teacher for the South Asian community and share with them the numerous paths anyone can take ways to get a higher education, papers or not.
Education seems to be a theme for those within the DREAM Act movement. I join another group called Graduates Reaching A Deferred Dream (GRADD) and met people who are pursuing their graduate degree, have completed their graduate degree, and a few who are in Ph.D. programs. Through them, I started to think about my future and the possibility of going to graduate school. In October, I applied to the Master’s program for Speech Communication and was accepted for the spring 2012 semester at California State University, Fullerton.When I entered the DREAM Act movement, I was exposed to an intersection of identities. There are queer undocumented students who first started their struggle at home. Before they knew they were undocumented, they were fighting the stigma of being queer within their family. Then they were hit with the reality of being undocumented and they began fighting for their rights. I jumped into the queer undocumented movement to create a space to0 empower both identities.
The DREAM Act movement opened my eyes to how unjust our society is. For the first time ever I felt hated by people just for being who I am. But I am not bitter, I am happier than ever because my story is full of hope and the desire to do good for my community. A year ago, my dreams were locked away by senators who didn’t understand the power of a DREAMer. A year ago, I was afraid and believed that America would do the right thing. Today, I hold the key to the dreams the senators locked away. I am undocumented and unafraid.