Uncovering Our Stories: Bupendra Ram

I came to the United States when I was two years old. Ethnically, I am Indian, but I was born in the Fiji Islands. Three years ago the United States Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act. I sat at home watching them play with my future. I sat in disbelief as they made me feel less than human. With each vote, my accomplishments as an undocumented student disappeared into thin air. That day I was left with only one choice: to come out of the shadows and share my story- a story about a queer undocumented South Asian American who is full of accomplishments and perseverance.

Being raised in America, I caught the “American Dream” virus that was spread by teachers. In elementary and middle school, I never knew what it meant to be undocumented. All I knew was that I had a passion to learn. I was exactly like the student sitting next to me, learning the values this country was founded on, believing those who work hard can succeed in America. Obtaining an education felt like my calling. The teachers must have seen my thirst for knowledge because they always encouraged me to achieve at my full potential.

During my first year at California State University, Fullerton I commuted two hours by public transportation to campus. Thankfully, my teachers and scholarship donors believed in me and provided some funding for my first year. Nonetheless, I still had to scrape together funds for the following year. I saved every penny at a minimum wage job, cutting expenses to the bare minimum. Like everyone who works in this country, my paycheck had the federal, state, and local taxes withheld. Yet because I was undocumented, I was unable to qualify for financial aid.

In May 2010, I became the first person in my family with a bachelor’s degree, and in January, I started a master’s. Behind my success is my mother, who kept the family together. While I would be studying, she would force me to eat. My mom knows too well that when midterms come around, I don’t focus on myself. She works from 9 pm to 2 am but wakes up early enough to make sure I have a warm breakfast before I go to school or work. When I study at home, she always peels fruits for me so that I am eating healthy while reading. She is the most loving Indian Aunty that anyone will ever meet. My success stems from the courage and sacrifice of my parents.

In the undocumented movement, as I looked around all the meetings and rallies, I noticed my community was not being represented. I am a queer undocumented South Asian immigrant and I can’t separate any one of those identities from the others. I live at the intersections. I started to become more public about my identity, in hopes that I could inspire South Asians like myself to pursue higher education or be part of the movement. There are queer undocumented students who first started their struggle at home, fighting the stigma of being queer within their family. Then they were hit with the reality of being undocumented. I jumped into the queer undocumented movement to create a space to empower both identities.

The DREAM Act movement opened my eyes to how unjust our society is. For the first time ever I felt hated by people just for being who I am. But I am not bitter. I am happier than ever because my story is full of hope and the desire to do good for my community.

Three years ago, my dreams were locked away by senators who didn’t understand the power of a DREAMer. I was afraid and waiting for senators to do the right thing. Today, I hold the key to the dreams the senators locked away as I fight for citizenship for me and my parents. I am undocumented and unafraid. And that’s why I support immigration reform.