Am I Really Protected?


By Alex Marchante

In recent years, getting into college has been a grueling challenge for many students. But there are not many students that go through such an obstacle as immigrant students, specifically undocumented Latino students.

Although the inclusion of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, signed in 2012 to grant immigrant students arriving into the United States under the age of 16 and who were under the age of 31 on June 15th, 2012, many students still do not qualify and therefore face additional adversity when attempting to enter post-secondary institutions. Despite that, many students still try their hardest to get a college education despite their limitations.

Approaching a pivotal moment in her life, Tatiana Pinto, a college hopeful, is in a situation in which she does not have DACA; she only has a TPS, or temporary protected status. The difference between the two is TPS gives students the label of international students. Therefore, TPS increases college tuition costs, limits students to certain colleges and universities they can and cannot enter, which depends on state and individual institution policy.

Arguments have arisen as to whether students with DACA are allowed to enter institutions that fall under the University System of Georgia, whom prevent “students without lawful presence in the country from attending any institution that has not enrolled all of its academically qualified applicants for the previous two years,” according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story.

Approaching a pivotal moment in her life as she prepares to tackle college with just a TPS status, Tatiana Pinto attempts to defy odds and become a biology major with a possible pre-med or nursing focus. Pinto, who was born in El Salvador, plans to apply to/attend colleges that include, but are not limited to Davidson College, Emory University, Wofford College and Young Harris College.

“With my status, I am aware of my limitations,” said Pinto. “I can’t become licensed, do residency, or become a doctor, but that won’t stop me.”

Pinto did not know the details behind her status until recently. She explains, “I honestly always thought that I had the same privileges as my other classmates, with a citizenship status….I found out more in depth about my status…ever since, my perspective changed. I look at it as an even bigger challenge.”

Pinto is still thankful for the academic opportunities that she has had so far, despite not being able to choose her entire destiny.

“I am most thankful for the fact I got to equally student the same rigorous courses as my other classmates, with nothing ‘defining’ what we could or couldn’t study,” said Pinto. 

Despite the bittersweet situation of being an underdocumented student, Pinto still attempts to give it her all for her sake and for others as well, especially young latino students that may be in her shoes one day. 

“I am thankful for being Salvadoran. There is a drive in me that makes me want to make a change, a difference in others’ lives, help them out the way I have been helped out. I want to empower and inspire other latinos and minorities.”

Pinto is currently in the final round of students awaiting for the Golden Doors scholarship, a program for DACA and TPS students. She is also a part of Ulead, an organization in downtown Athens that helps research and disseminate information about the changing policies and laws for post-secondary students while advocating political and community support for undocumented students.

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