Last week José Luis Zelaya, an undocumented student from Texas, lost his bid to become Texas A&M’s student body president.
Yes, you read correctly. An undocumented student ran his own campaign to serve as the president of the entire student body ,and despite his loss we must take a second and analyze what this historic moment means for undocumented students across the United States.
Not too long ago Zelaya was known for raising money to cover his tuition at Texas A&M. Even with the in-state tuition breaks that Texas affords undocumented students, José was struggling to make ends meet. So what did he do? He launched his own fundraising campaign, which took turn into him selling beanies that he himself made – by hand.
Zelaya’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the press. With another semester covered at Texas A&M, Zelaya decided to run for Student Body President in order to ensure his fellow “Aggies” that under his leadership there would be no more tuition hikes, and that diversity would be respected across the entire campus.
Questions about his immigrations status were raised, and while some of the students on campus seemed concerned about the matter, Zelaya’s opponents were quickly to highlight that his immigration status should not be a question about his integrity or devotion to the school.
“It was a question that was tough because I’m an Aggie. I’m not running because I am undocumented, I’m running because I want to make a difference, I want to better my community.” Zelaya responded.
José came out in fourth place in a six-way election.
Zelaya joins a scarce number of undocumented students who have conducted similar campaigns in order to become their University’s Student Body President.
Not too long ago, Juan Rodriguez was elected as the Student Body President of Miami Dade College InterAmerican Campus. Felipe Matos, another undocumented student, would also serve as Student Body President at Miami Dade College.
Today, Diego Sanchez serves as the Student Body President of St. Thomas University in Florida; he too is undocumented.
What these individuals and their stories teach us is that your undocumented status doe not make you or break you. You can be undocumented, go to college, and even represent the entire student body should you put your mind to it.
José Luis Zelaya may have lost his bid to become the Student Body presdietn at Texas A&M. He might have even lost his bid to become the first undocumented student to serve as Student Body President at a four-year public University. Yet, we must look at his efforts and the at the efforts of other brilliant individuals and recognize the glass ceilings the have broken for under undocumented youth.
Are you undocumented and are serving as Student Body president within your College or University? Are you planning on running?
Tell us why in the comments.