Working with Undocumented Students: What They Say We Need to Know
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My first memory of being undocumented is clearly seared in my body. I must have been somewhere between first and fourth grade. My mama was registering me for the first day of school. We must have arrived at an off-hour because we were the only ones in the elementary school office with Ms. B, the school secretary. She was familiar to me because we had often sat next to her at mass in the St. Callistus Churchpew on Sunday mornings. When I was filling out the registration paperwork, I asked mama what “SSN” meant. She and Ms. B exchanged glances. Ms. B said, “Write your tax id number,” which I knew by heart, having used it many times before on different types of forms. My mama gave silent thanks in the meek and heartfelt way that only she knew how to express. Something powerful happened in that subtle exchange. I knew my mama and Ms. B had made an arrangement of sorts, the way a child looks up at two adults and knows that a secret was shared and an understanding was established. Nothing I learned within school walls was as powerful and consequential as the tacit lessons that were so effectively inculcated in me as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala.
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