Sunday, August 24, 2008

Filipino American Lives:

At age 6, Angelo Mathay [pictured] traveled with his mother from the Philippines to the U.S. for a vacation. He has not returned, not even for his father's funeral. He is a "TNT" - tago ng tago - an undocumented immigrant.

Angelo is also a student of the UCLA, one of the country's most prestigious schools. His story is included in Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Students Speak Out, which profiles plight of undocumented college students who were brought as young children to the U.S. and their struggle to complete their educations.

They are unable to legally work, obtain drivers licenses in California, and are barred from many other rights afforded their classmates. Because the students are “out-of-status,” they are ineligible for any government financial aid and struggle to stay in school by taking jobs where they are paid "under the table," living with family far from campus and taking long daily commutes on public transportation, and withdrawing from school when funds are low.

At the book's launching in Historic Filipinotown early this month, he told the audience, “Filipinos believe “tago ng tago” (hide and hide) our status, but we have to come out of the shadows if we want to change immigration policy.”

Together with community leaders, the students are lobbying for the California and federal Dream Acts which would respectively provide government financial aid and a path to citizenship for undocumented college students. Currently, there are more than 300 undocumented UCLA students.

At the same event, Stephanie Solis, a Filipina student, also spoke. Solis did not learn she was undocumented until she was 18 and announced to her parents that it was time to apply for a driver’s license, passport, and college. They finally disclosed to her that because of her status, she was not entitled to many of these rights. She admitted, “Yes, it is scary to stand at press conferences, or hearings, or speaking engagements and be identified as undocumented, but it would be much more scary if we didn’t speak out.”

[text and picture Marshall Wong/APALC press release]

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