by Ingrid Hernandez
My high school vice principal asked me to attend an event they had put together to try to convince wealthy professionals to sponsor more students. I was in my senior year, and they wanted me to talk about my dreams and ambitions, the challenges, and how the school had contributed to my achievements. But there were two things of which she asked me not to speak: politics and my immigration status.
It was a lovely evening of gourmet food and valet parking. Round tables covered in white, silk tablecloths (adorned at the center with tall glasses filled with water, stones, a sunken orchid, and a floating candle) were placed nicely on the patio. The soft lighting of the lamps and the warm glow of the moonlight illuminated the evening. Waiters paced back and forth, filling our glasses with wine and apple cider. The splendor of it all seemed almost surreal.
I sat at a table next to my eleventh-grade physics teacher. He had also taught me conceptual physics my freshman year, his first year of teaching, so he considered me one of his babies. Across from us sat an elderly man and his beautiful young wife. We conversed about finance and technology, about his travels and expensive cars, as if he and I were no different. I was beginning to feel comfortable. But then he turned to my teacher and asked what the school’s policy was regarding undocumented students. My teacher looked at me reassuringly, and I looked down. With carefully chosen words, he told him that there was no policy. The old man turned to me and said, “I do not want to sponsor aliens who will take away opportunities that students like you deserve.” I smiled and nodded in agreement, but the heavy sensation in my chest did not go away—that same feeling I get when I swim underwater and try to hold my breath for too long. There are things I’ll never say.