Dartmouth Student Relieved, Yet Disappointed, By Obama's Immigration Plan

Nov 21, 2014

A student from Dartmouth College who came to the United States without citizenship documents says he is both relieved and a little disappointed in the speech President Barack Obama gave on Thursday evening about changes in immigration policy.

Oscar Cornejo Casares arrived in the United States from Mexico when he was only 5 years old. The new immigration policy does not change his situation much, because undocumented students brought to America before they were 16 already have deferred deportation status. But Cornejo Casares has always worried that his parents would disappear from his home in Chicago, while he was far away at school.

“There’s that kind of fear, realizing that my dad could be stopped on the way to work and be deported. That has always affected me, more this term, mentally, and my mental health has been something that I have been trying to struggle with," Cornejo Casares said. "But now, thanks to this, I have been able to have some sort of relief."

His sister was born in the U.S., so that means his parents will be shielded under the new policy announced by Obama, which defers deportation for parents of children who reside legally in the United States.

"There's that kind of fear, realizing that my dad could be stopped on the way to work and be deported. That has always affected me ... But now, thanks to this, I have been able to have some sort of relief." - Oscar Carnejo Casares

“I’m very grateful for that, but for many, many of my friends, people who live in my neighborhood, they will not be able to receive this benefit because they do not have children or legal residence,” Cornejo Casares said. "So the parents are still in the same boat as they were before."

That’s why he wishes Obama had gone further to reform the immigration system.

“It’s disappointing in fact, to see that, and the kind of rhetoric and discourse that he used in the speech was very conservative ... He didn’t really understand what it meant to be undocumented,” Cornejo Casares said.

Conrejo Casares is studying for exams this week. He took a rare break to watch the speech on television. He has a scholarship to attend Dartmouth but his father works three jobs to cover his son's other expenses, including health insurance.

"The kind of rhetoric and discourse that he used in the speech was very conservative ... He didn't really understand what it meant to be undocumented."

The sophomore co-chairs a new advocacy group called Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and Dreamers, or CoFIRED. It aims to raise consciousness on campus about the struggles he and other students face as they pursue an education. 

"It's been a taboo subject," he says. But now, as immigration reform inches forward, he says the there's more conversation about it, and the college administration is starting to do more to help students like him.

Update: 9:37 a.m.November 22. This story was updated to clarify that the insurance Cornejo Casares does not qualify for is not the school policy but the Affordable Care Act.  Dartmouth requires him to enroll in the school policy, and pay for it.