Valerie Klessig

Black Panther is Undocumented

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Valerie Klessig

Cleveland, WI

They say the promise of equal opportunity remains deep in America’s heartland. I am part of the sixth generation on my family’s dairy farm, carved from the Wisconsin wilderness in 1850 by my German ancestors. They, like other immigrants lured by fertile soil and opportunity, had a dream. In the United States, the right to higher education equips men and women of every race, ethnicity, religion, and social status with tools necessary to realize these dreams.

Because of the broken U.S. immigration system, no viable path to citizenship exists for undocumented immigrants who came to this country in search of a better life, especially for their children. In many states undocumented students are ineligible for financial aid. Thus, higher education is often inaccessible. These students work diligently, volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities alongside U.S.-born classmates. After graduation, they are unable to pursue dreams because they are denied access to financial assistance.

Fixing the fundamentally broken system requires federal and grassroots initiatives, the latter the true facilitator of social change. I am a UW-Madison senior majoring in journalism and Spanish, and I am fiercely committed to social justice. This is why I strongly support immigration reform and the Define American campaign. Empowering immigrant families and my undocumented immigrant peers to realize their dreams will help us preserve the principles upon which our democracy rests. We need to equip our future generation with the skills necessary to succeed in a globalized world, and we need collaborate and fix the system so we can give marginalized groups a voice, make higher education more accessible to immigrant families and ensure equal opportunity is granted to every human being.

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