Cecilia Martinez opens up about life of fear, uncertainty


by Sydney Vrban, Special to The Simpsonian

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Only months after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the effect of the administration ripples not only through politics but college campuses nationwide.

Immigrant and international students at Simpson College brace themselves for the impact of Trump’s policies, including potential unemployment, loss of college funding and deportation.

Simpson sophomore Cecilia Martinez lives and attends college in the United States as an undocumented immigrant because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I was around 6 months old when I came here, so I don’t actually have any memories of Mexico besides stories and pictures,” Martinez said. “I was raised here.”

But Martinez is not considered a U.S. citizen in the eyes of the law. An undocumented status places Martinez in a precarious situation.

Due to complex immigration laws and procedures, Martinez’s family members are able to stay in the United States.

“I would be the one to be taken away,” Martinez said. “I just know how hard that would be. My parents made a sacrifice to bring my siblings here and for me to be the one who was sent back would be hard.”

Shortly after taking office, Trump enacted several executive orders covering the topic of immigration.

The orders target undocumented immigrants through various methods, according to the Department of Homeland Security. This includes stripping federal grant aid from sanctuary cities, banning the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on patrol.

Martinez lives each day fearing the threat of deportation under the Trump Administration. As a political science major, Martinez is well aware of the current political climate.

Immigration laws are expected to be enforced with a newfound intensity under Trump.

Martinez said the preservation of DACA is essential for undocumented immigrants in the United States. A common fear of immigrants is being unable to attend school.

“Without DACA, I wouldn’t have a Social Security number,” Martinez said. “Everything I have worked for would just be gone.”

Martinez has made quite an impact on Simpson’s campus within only two years of attendance.

In addition to a demanding political science and applied philosophy double major, Martinez is also active as a member in the Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority, is a Simpson Colloquium leader and is president of Pride, accomplishments on the verge of being lost should Martinez face deportation.

“We all have to come to terms with the contributions immigrants, both documented and undocumented, make to this country,” said John Epperson, professor of political science. “What Trump has done is demonize them.”

Martinez is aware of the stereotypes fostered by the Trump administration and describes local changes recognizable since the election. This includes a notable increase in ICE activity in the Des Moines area.

“I get calls from my parents saying, ‘Maybe don’t go into Des Moines today,’ and it is something I don’t think a lot of people have to think about,” Martinez said.

According to the Chronical of Higher Education, only 7.6 percent of Simpson’s students are nonwhite. A lack of diversity not only isolates students like Martinez but hinders a student’s ability to communicate and collaborate with other ethnicities in the professional job market, thus damaging the professional development of Simpson students.

“Being able to communicate with people who are different than you is a valuable skill,” Martinez said.

Simpson has struggled to incorporate diversity, which critics say invites stereotypes and conceals the reality surrounding complex immigration issues.

Martinez lives in shades of gray. Although culturally Americans, undocumented immigrants must find solid ground between two opposing worlds.

Negative portrayals of immigration lead Martinez to suggest viewing the situation from an alternative perspective.

How would it feel to run the risk of being ripped away from everything familiar and thrust into a dangerous uncertainty?

“Try and have a little bit of sympathy,” Martinez said.