Miriam Uribe is a senior politics and Latin American studies major.
The first time I wrote for the Foghorn was my freshman year, with an op-ed entitled “Undocumented and Unafraid,” talking about my own struggles as an undocumented person and the organizing being done in San Francisco around undocumented immigrant rights. This was just a few weeks after almost dropping out of USF. I almost dropped out because I could not afford to pay for housing. When I went to ask the financial aid office if it would be possible to obtain more aid, I was told that maybe I could get a federal loan.
Except I couldn’t.
As an undocumented student, I am not allowed to obtain federal financial aid. It was not until very recently that a few private scholarships began to allow those undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Status to apply. However, that still leaves out all those people who do not qualify or do not have the funds to apply for DACA. If students are from California and meet all the requirements, they are able to apply for the California Dream Act and get around $9,084 per year. Although USF does do a great job with their financial aid by providing merit scholarships and grants that cover tuition, many undocumented students end up not being able to attend school because these grants do not cover housing. Currently, there are no specific scholarship for undocumented students offered by USF. However, the Magis Scholarship, a scholarship fund specifically for undocumented students, is in the works, and has the potential to cover this housing gap.
According to a survey sent to students by the Task Force to Support Undocumented Students in 2014, there were about 80 undocumented students at USF. I am not sure if that has gone up or down. I can tell you that last year, during one of the admitted student events, I met a fellow undocumented student that was so very excited to attend USF. She was going to be a politics major and wanted to do the USF in DC program. The work she had done at home to advocate for her community was amazing and she wanted to continue to advocate for undocumented students here. She was a perfect fit for USF.
It broke my heart when her financial aid package did not cover the full cost of attendance at USF; her gap was about $13,000. She looked at me and asked if there was any way that USF would be able to help her with that and I so badly wanted to say yes, but I knew that was not possible. I was upset and angry that there was nothing more that I could do for her to come here.
This weekend I met four wonderful undocumented students during the Students of Color Overnight Experience, an event for admitted students of color to come spend a day and a night at USF. They loved the campus. They loved the classes. They loved the people. They loved the opportunities that USF has to offer. They loved the city. However, just like last year, they all had a financial gap that wouldn’t cover their housing. One of the emails from these students in my inbox right now says, “I really want to come to this school. Please don’t forget about me. I need all the help I can get!” and I am frustrated that I might not be able to help them.
These things anger me because USF prides itself on its social justice mission. It prides itself on being one of the most diverse schools in the nation. How is it that despite being located in San Francisco, a sanctuary city since 1989, and in California, where nearly a quarter of the undocumented population in the U.S. resides, USF’s undocumented students make up only 0.8 percent of the total undergraduate and graduate student population?
Since Fr. Fitzgerald told me this weekend that the Jesuits proposed providing funding for the Magis Scholarship. This is my way of keeping them accountable. You need to do more for your undocumented community at USF and this is one out of the many ways that you can start. I have loved my four years here, and I have gained so much from a Jesuit education, but I want more undocumented students to be able to obtain this Jesuit education, too.
I am beyond proud to be part of the co-founding of USF’s Annual UndocuWeek, but if we cannot provide access for more undocumented students to come, we are acting like hypocrites. The statement released by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities says, “Experience has shown us that our communities are immeasurably enriched by the presence, intelligence, and committed contributions of undocumented students.” Therefore, I ask you to please step up and provide access to more undocumented students. Reach out to your personal and professional networks to donate in order to provide sustainable funding to the Magis Scholarship, and allow these students to be part of our community this upcoming fall.