#UndocuJoy - Julia Montejo

To my undocumented Ivy Leaguers,

Today hurts. We woke up today bracing ourselves for what was to come. We rose out of our beds and headed out into the world knowing that today, the government of the country in which we have spent most of our lives has decided that we are not worthy of calling this place our home. Today, we were reminded that, Ivy League or not, we are still less than.

I grew up believing that if I worked hard, I could somehow erase my undocumentedness. I pushed myself to be the best I could be in every area I found myself in. I convinced myself that if I looked perfect, behaved perfectly, and achieved perfectly, I could be freed from this burden. Like many of you, I told almost no one about my undocumentedness, hoping a silent fight could help me escape it. I was one of the lucky ones: I got to attend an elite institution with the protections of DACA. I held on to the hope that DACA could help me succeed, as I had done before, in a world that was not made for me.

Today, we are hurt. You, like me, might have already shed tears. You might have been facing this reality since November, when we knew this day was likely coming. I know that you’re hurting. Today, we struggle, and for days and weeks and months to come we will walk through the world afraid with a heavy weight on our backs of not knowing for sure what’s to come.

Today, the attorney general of the United States equated us to thieves, claiming that our successes were unworthy, because we dared to be born in countries that our families felt forced to escape due to the ever pushing forces of colonialism and capitalism. We dared to be our best selves and succeed, and now we’re accused of stealing that success from other people just because we were born in different places and circumstances.

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We’re told that we’re not worthy of being considered equal. We’re told that we’re less than human. We’re told that we should not be allowed to feel freedom and hope and happiness. We’re told that our successes and our survival don’t matter because of the place of our birth. The messages that we’re told are heard loud and clear and ring everyday in my ears, but if my existence is resistance, then I find pride in pushing outside the bounds of misery that have been prescribed to me. When one is forced to feel pain like the pain we’re forced to endure, when our lives are painted as monstrous, joy feels that much sweeter.

A few days ago, as I faced the reality of DACA ending, I watched a video from Define American titled “UndocuJoy.” The video acknowledges the struggles of undocumented people while still reminding us that we are nuanced. We are more than the gloom and doom narratives. Likewise, we have to remind ourselves that we are more than just valedictorians. Many others like us weren’t as lucky. But, in acknowledging these nuances, I reminded myself that we are all, as undocumented people, still worthy of being people who seek joy and love and respect, regardless of DACA eligibility, degrees, or perceived successes. We all have value. And we are all allowed to have joy.

So today, remember that you are beautiful. You are creators, you are laughers, you are lovers, you are lights of hope and joy. Take the time you need to feel the pain. Do whatever feels best for you to feel better in this moment. Know that even existing in the spaces you occupy is resistance. Know that, as we fight this battle for our dignity, you are souls of strength and power, but you’re allowed to feel vulnerable at times. Know that every moment of self-care you can find is still part of fighting this fight. Know that every time you paint your nails, dance in your room, eat a treat, laugh with your friends, run in the woods, or do anything that gives you joy, you are resisting a system and a country that, as “UndocuJoy” reminds us, thinks we’re not worthy of even smiling. I believe in us. Together, we will overcome.

“I love us.”

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Julia Montejo

Cornell University Class of 2017

Photos: Edem Dzodzomenyo