Faces of Dreamers: Cynthia Torres, Missouri Southern State University

November 19, 2018

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This is one in a series of posts on individual Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young children, many of whom are under threat of deportation following the Trump administration’s decision in September 2017 to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA.

Cynthia Torres is a DACA recipient and founder of a student organization called The Friendly Immigrant at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU), which brings together undocumented students and their allies to raise awareness and funds for DACA-recipient students.

Torres’s family settled in the United States when she was two years old, according to a profile in The Joplin Globe. She didn’t even know she had been born in Mexico until her legal status came into question. She worked hard and excelled at academics and athletics in high school and assumed that she would be able to get scholarships to college.

Unfortunately, her undocumented status meant that affording higher education would be a struggle. She went to community college and had to pay out-of-state tuition for her first semester because she lacked citizenship, until the California DREAM Act allowed her to pay in-state tuition for the subsequent three semesters.

Next, Torres set her sights on MSSU, which offered her an athletics scholarship. But two weeks before the semester started, she received a phone call about her citizenship status. Because she was undocumented, MSSU could not use state funds for her scholarship as planned. Eventually, Torres was able to fund her education through a scholarship from a private foundation.

Torres found that she was the first DACA student at MSSU, and she wanted to pave a path for future students in a similar situation. She founded The Friendly Immigrant club to educate her peers and raise money to fund MSSU’s DACA Foundation.

Although the club enjoyed great success, she had trouble getting other undocumented students to join at first.

“I assume the others are afraid to disclose their status. It is a scary thing to do,” she said. “The idea of possibly being detained and deported is a really scary thing for immigrant families. I remember growing up as a child, my biggest fear was coming home and my parents not being there.”

Torres recently applied for DACA renewal, but with the future of the program still uncertain, she worries that she will not be able to carry out her goals of graduating from MSSU, getting a master’s degree, and becoming an educator.
Read more about Torres’ story here.

—Carly O’Connell

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