After I arrived home from soccer practice, the phone rang. “El Camino,” my mother said as she handed it to me, referring to a nearby community college. I was taking engineering courses there, offered in conjunction with my high school, but the woman from the registrar’s office had a problem: The Social Security number I had provided to receive college credit did not match my name, and if I couldn’t provide a valid number, I’d have to pay almost $2,000 for the classes I’d taken.
Why, I asked my parents, had my Social Security number been rejected? They told me they had given me my little brother’s number. It was a simple explanation, taking no more than 10 seconds in Spanish:
“Son, we overstayed our visa when you were three. You don’t have a social security number.”
I hadn’t known until then I was undocumented. I was 16, a high school junior, with big ambitions. Was I going to have to give them all up?
* * *
My friend Oscar, too, learned he was undocumented at the beginning of high school. He liked to remind all of us in between soccer games. When I found out about my own status, I told him he was no longer alone. “You should probably do some research,” he replied.
So much of what had happened to me finally made sense. I’d never really needed a Social Security number before El Camino, and whenever I asked if I could visit family in Mexico, my parents told me I had to wait for my “papers” to sort themselves out with the government. The few times I asked if I could get a job, my father took me with him to sweep the floors on his construction sites.
None of these, obviously, were long-term solutions.
We spent the summer between junior and senior year educating ourselves about what it means to be an undocumented Mexican living in America. We knew that we couldn’t legally be employed, we couldn’t re-enter the country if we left, and we couldn’t apply for a driver’s license in California. Gradually, we also learned that getting to college was going to be a much more difficult endeavor than our guidance counselors had explained.
It was possible, we learned, to be admitted to most public and private colleges regardless of our legal status. But paying for them was a different matter. At the time, there was no way to receive financial aid to state schools unless you had a Social Security number. A few private institutions offered varying amounts of money to admitted students, from small stipends to a full ride. Oscar and I decided that no school was worth bankrupting our families, so we set our sights on the narrow band of “need-blind” private schools — ones that dispensed as much money as students needed could prove they needed — including all of the Ivy League universities.
You have to read the rest HERE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/09/24/i-told-h...