Cady Landa

Black Panther is Undocumented

Get the exclusive movie viewing guide!

Cady Landa

Waltham, MA

My story as an American begins with my grandparents who all came to the U.S. from Russia in 1913 or thereabouts. The story that sits so strongly with me is my Grandpa Charlie’s. He died when I was ten. So very early on, and he was the only grandparent who told me about his life in Russia, he told me a story that I will never forget — a story that has enabled me to feel connected with many people who have suffered the effects of being seen as less than human. My grandfather left Russia for the U.S. when he was fourteen years old. Before that time, he told me that he saw the people of his village, who were Jewish, rounded up and shot into a mass grave. I don’t know quite how he was able to make it to the U.S., but when he came he had an older brother here in New York who he was supposed to live with. His brother met him initially, but on the first night that my grandfather was here, his brother disappeared. My grandfather knew not a word of English, but with the help of a settlement house, I believe the Henry Street Settlement House in New York City, he was able to learn English, find a job and get an education. He became a dentist. He was an anarcho-socialist, believing both that through our government we should provide for one another, but that, unfortunately all power corrupts. He charged his patients on a sliding scale in accordance with their income and always had non-paying patients who could not afford to pay for their care. When I was teaching high school, one of the students in my advanced placement U.S. government course was awarded a John and Abigail Adams scholarship because of her high score on the high stakes “No Child Left Behind” exam. The scholarship was to enable her to attend any Massachusetts state college or university tuition-free. When I went to congratulate her she started to cry and told me that she actually couldn’t collect the scholarship because she was not documented. She had come with her parents from Brazil and overstayed a tourist visa when she was 11 because her parents were unable to find work in Brazil, and the family was unable to survive there. She remembers that there was not enough food for her family to eat. I wrote her recommendations for college. She was admitted to six and was awarded partial merit scholarships in several. Towards the end of school, I saw her sitting off on her own at the senior picnic. When I went over to speak with her, she told me that she was realizing that she couldn’t go to college because her family couldn’t afford it and as an undocumented person she was ineligible for any state or federal financial aid, loans or work-study and would have to pay international student rates at MA public colleges and universities. She was trying to decide whether she should return to Brazil, but ultimately decided that she could not return because the U.S. was her home and all of her friends, her life, was here. This wonderful young woman, so desirous to learn and to give, is as American as I am. She, and anyone who is here who is a decent human being deserves the opportunity to fully belong, to learn, and to contribute. She is a part of our family — a part of who we are. National borders should not disable us from befriending and supporting one another.

Let's Talk

It's time for a new conversation about immigration in America, and it starts with us.

More Stories

Adrian Escarate

Coral Gables, FL

Adrian Escarate

Alexis Torres Machado

Newark, NJ

Alexis Torres Machado

Oswaldo Alanis

Chicago, IL

Oswaldo Alanis

Megan Keely

San Francisco, CA

Megan Keely

Carlos Guzman

Little Rock, AR

Carlos Guzman