by Cindy Pena
Jose Diaz goes through the same struggles as any college student at Central Connecticut State University; manages to keep his grades up, stresses over finals and pays for the increasing cost of tuition.
However, he faces one constant struggle many students cannot relate to: he is undocumented.
Diaz is in the U.S. on a work permit and protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration program that protects people who came into the U.S. as children. 16,000 individuals live under DACA in Connecticut. Only 18 percent have a high school diploma and are enrolled in college.
Although he is protected from deportation, he still fears for other undocumented individuals.
“Many people in CCSU and in the town of New Britain, that I know personally, are scared because all things they are hearing in the news and on the TV. They are afraid on what could happen to them,” said Diaz. “It’s different knowing that all those things that they are saying could happen. Although I am under DACA, it’s still scary.”
He has advocated for the cause of undocumented immigrants on and off campus through his speeches in events, interviews with news outlets and participation in clubs.
His voice on campus has helped many students who feel they can’t disclose their legal status in fear of how people will respond and treat them.
“I want to prove people that we are not the way you think we are. I just want to fight, not only for my family, but other students who feel that they don’t have a voice,” said Diaz. “We just want an opportunity. We just want people to see us the way we are. I don’t want people to judge us because we are undocumented or because we don’t have a piece of paper. That shouldn’t define us.”
However, he doesn’t want to be the only one fighting for this cause.
“I want to be that catalyst, I want to be that first person, but hopefully other people can come out later on,” said Diaz. “They shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, there is a support system here. That way, the school and others can see that there are others as well and it’s not just Jose.”
One support system that Diaz has leaned on is the Social Justice Committee of the Student Government Association.
The SJC organized a lobbying effort to push for the Afford to Dream Act and a rally in support of immigrants. Diaz and members of the SJC collaborated in both these efforts.
“I think that the SGA and the Social Justice Committee has helped a lot and they will continue to help even more. I think that they always have done everything that they can to support,” said Diaz. “We work together to come up with different ways that can help the undocumented students and help them succeed in school as well.”
The SJC and Diaz’ goal by organizing these efforts is to educate the CCSU community and change the common misconceptions people have on undocumented individuals.
“I think that most of the time that people are against immigration or the issue of undocumented immigrants is because they don’t know what’s going on. They are misinformed,” said Diaz. “People think they don’t pay taxes, that they are criminals, that they are bringing drugs and that’s not true. So, one of the things that I am doing is showing people that I am undocumented, but I am not a criminal. I am in school, I am trying to do my best to contribute to the community and help others. I am not a burden.”
CCSU and its many programs to protect undocumented students have created a safe place for Diaz and others; something he is truly grateful for.
“I think that CCSU is one of the schools that I personally feel safe, mainly because the way they have been reacting to all the things that’s been going on,” said Diaz. “All the things I have done here on campus, they have reacted positively. They always look to me and ask if I need anything else or if they needed my help to do something or needed my opinion. I feel like that actually matters because other universities will not take the initiative.”