Living Undocumented: The Shadow of Uncertainty

Writing Wrongs Author Carlee Nilphai

Carlee Nilphai. Photo by Max Gondolfo.

Writing Wrongs is a community journalism project in which college students explore various social issues. Last year’s issue, “Untold, Unseen, Unheard: Perspectives on Immigration,” contains interviews with immigrants detailing their lives and goals for the future. This is a summary of a piece Carlee Nilphai of Millersville University originally wrote for the book.

Undocumented Arrival

Carlos Gonzalez and his family immigrated to the United States in 2002 from the Dominican Republic. His mother legally came to the U.S. on a tourist visa after his father died of cancer when he was eight. Carlos came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.

School Life

Carlos wanted to honor the sacrifices his mother made, so he felt determined to succeed in all aspects of life. He graduated from Hempfield High School as student council president, was involved in many extracurricular activities, and volunteeried. Meanwhile, he maintained great academic records. When it came time for college, he could not find enough financial aid to attend the places that accepted him.

Carlos eventually attended Harrisburg Area Community College but the college charged international rates despite his having graduated from a Pennsylvania high school. A few community scholarships helped him but he worked hard to pay for school. He heard about a transfer initiative at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Amherst told Carlos that if he was accepted there, they would offer him the needed financial aid. After much waiting, Amherst accepted him.

Hope Arrives

Carlos worried about his career. Even with a college degree, getting a job as an undocumented immigrant is extremely difficult. He gained hope when President Obama implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which offered administrative relief for immigrants brought to the U.S. by outside circumstances.

After graduation, Carlos moved to Illinois to work with the immigrant community. He later received a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at Cambridge University and study in China.

The Present & Future

Ever since then he has been working as the Statewide Capacity Building Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition (PICC). Carlos also leads PA Is Ready!, a project designed to provide community education regarding the current political climate.

The future of DACA is uncertain, which makes Carlos nervous. His family could be deported, barred from entering the U.S., and sent back to the Dominican Republic. Carlos has thought about several options for his next steps should DACA end, like moving to Canada or Australia. Regardless of the outcome, Carlos has no plans of giving up and will continue to strive for success.

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If you would like to be a student writer, print designer, photographer, videographer, social media manager, or program advisor for the 2018 issue of Writing Wrongs, click below for more information.

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To hear more stories like Carlos’, buy the full 2017 issue of Writing Wrongs here.


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