After moving to the United States in 2002, Polet Hernández, had to overcome many barriers including learning a new language, culture and educational system.
Hernández, who was born in Tetela Del Volcán, Morelos, México, was only 12 years old when she left her native country to relocate with her family to the Central Valley. Now she lives in Modesto.
Hernández, now 27, is currently working in her Masters of Social Work at California State University, Stanislaus and she is a student representative of the Dreamers Committee of Stanislaus, State.
Hernández, a DACA recipient, applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and was granted protection status in 2012. She has renewed DACA twice.
The third child out of five siblings, Hernández, attended Ceres High School and graduated in 2009, she graduated from Modesto Junior College in 2015 as a photography major and graduated CSU Stan in 2017 with a psychology degree.
In April, Hernández was invited to participate in Hill Day by Stanislaus State President Junn to advocate and represent undocumented students in her campus and community.
Hill Day, which was organized by The California State University, took place from April 9-12 in Washington, D.C.
1. After leaving your native country, what were some of the struggles you faced to be able to adapt to your new life?
“During my educational journey, I often felt frustrated, not only for being an immigrant trying to adapt to a new culture, but also for having to face the challenges that an undocumented student had to go through. As an undocumented student, I understood that I needed to work harder than most.”
2. What were some of the challenges you encountered in trying to pursue a higher education?
“During my senior year, I applied to several four-year colleges, but I found myself in a very discouraging situation. Even though I had all of the qualifications, my undocumented status meant I had no access to financial aid that would allow me to pay for college. Happily, a few weeks later I learned about the possibility of enrolling in Modesto Junior College and the fee structure that was workable.”
3. Your graduation from a community college, what did it mean for you and your family?
“With my graduation from Modesto Junior College, I became the first woman in my family to graduate from college as well as the first to attend a university. In 2015, I decided to pursue a career in psychology in California State University, Stanislaus.
4. Why did you pursue that career?
“I want a career that involves helping others, as I have always received great pleasure from working for the benefit of my community. The struggles I had to go through empowered and encouraged me to fighting for myself and also for others who were in similar situations.”
5. In which ways have you been active in your community?
“In my efforts to make a difference in my community, I helped establish the first group for undocumented students at Modesto Junior College known as Students United Reaching for Equality (SURE). When I transferred to California State University, Stanislaus I continued to serve undocumented students by taking part in the development of a club called Students Advocating for Equality (SAFE).”
6. What is your role as student representative of the Dreamers Committee of Stanislaus, State?
“As a student representative, I am dedicated to ensure that our concerns are addressed and most importantly to ensure that resources are available.”
7. How do you see yourself in 5 years?
“My experience with discrimination due to my undocumented status, and Mexican origins has inspired me to work toward the benefit of my community. In 5 years, I see myself working with my Latino community and helping them to connect to resources that will enhance their well being. I also see myself pursuing a Ph. D. Program to further advance my knowledge of personal life experiences of my fellow Mexican Americans and Latino community.”
8. You recently went to D.C, to advocate for students like yourself, how was that experience and where you able to talk to your representative?
“During this trip my role was to talk to republican and democrats to engage in effective law making and pass a Clean Dream Act which provides the 11 million undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship. A Clean Dream Act with no additional border militarization nor the wall, no additional interior enforcement also know as mass deportation, no more detention centers with inhuman conditions, no criminalization nor and racial profiling. Yes, I spoke to Jeff Denham. During our visit to D. C, we had the opportunity to have lunch with him. I was able to express to him my concerns as an undocumented student/immigrant and the uncertainties I was facing. We discussed many of the barriers that my family and I experienced and how my experience reflected millions of other families around the country. During our meeting we felt welcomed and supported. Jeff Denham introduced to us his “queen-of-the-hill” rule to advance immigration reform bills the measure would bring four immigration reform bills to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives without the approval of committees or leadership.”
9. How do you feel about the recent ruling of U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington, D.C.?
The ruling of U.S. District Judge John D. Bates has giving us hope to those that had been granted DACA and for future applicants. However, DACA does not address undocumented immigrants’ issues entirely. Trump administration indicates that participants of the program would not become priorities of deportation. However, more than one case of detention of DACA recipients has occurred during his presidency. In my experience, DACA has relieved many of the stressors, but unfortunately my future is still uncertain. As I heard the news, my passion to advocate for a Clean Dream Act grew stronger. I believe that DACA will continue to be a target of political agendas, and our efforts should move toward a more permanent solution for DACA recipients and the other 11 million Undocumented immigrants.”
10. As immigrant, what would you say to people who don’t understand the struggles of students like you who are trying to find a solution to their status?
“Our families brought us to this country for opportunities that weren’t available to us in our country of origin. DACA recipients and million of other undocumented immigrants are part of the everyday fabric of our communities. They’re farm workers, teachers, doctors, social workers, moms, and dads. It’s important to recognize that undocumented immigrants add to the continual growth and prosperity of our nation. By definition, Dreamers are law- abiding citizens, they raise families, pursue higher education, and support local and state economy. Community support is essential for the success of undocumented immigrants. The change, and transformation, that occurs from having support from community is immense as undocumented children and youth in America deal with daily with isolation from peers, the struggle to pursue an education, fears of detention and deportation, and the trauma of separation from family and loved ones.”