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caption: Carlos Rodriguez has come out as undocumented after keeping his immigration status a secret for most of his life
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Carlos Rodriguez has come out as undocumented after keeping his immigration status a secret for most of his life
Credit: KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

'I cannot be silent': Undocumented Seattle student speaks out

For most of his life, Carlos Rodriguez had a secret.

But after this year's presidential election, he decided the time for silence was over. So, on November 18, he wrote a letter to his fellow students at Seattle University.

Here's part of what he wrote:

As an undocumented immigrant, I have hidden in the shadows of American society while at the same time dedicating so much to it. Last week I was afraid and I still carry that fear, but the panic and unease I saw in so many students on our campus and around the nation has moved me to act and fight for our most basic human rights. I should not have to feel afraid any longer.

Rodriguez wants to give courage to other minority students who are scared.

He also wants to put a face to the undocumented immigrants being talked about, the people President-elect Donald Trump said he wanted to deport.

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"People think that someone like me can't be undocumented: I'm the student body president, I'm going to school, I have two jobs, I do so many things here. People see that and they don't even think about the potential of me being undocumented," he said.

He knows he's risking a lot, but he believes it's worth it. Because even though others may not think about it when they look at him, being undocumented is something Rodriguez thinks about every day. He said he has lived with that fear all his life.

Rodriguez came to the U.S. when he was three years old. He came with his parents and his older brother —they're all undocumented.

They moved around a lot when he was a kid, fleeing anti-immigrant laws in the south. Rodriguez went to five high schools, he lived in three states, and he was homeless for a time.

Rodriguez moved to Seattle for college partly because a friendly city to undocumented immigrants. But being in a sanctuary city doesn't make the fear go away.

The fear for himself and his family has become somewhat normal for Rodriguez, but it still takes a toll. He recently started taking medication for anxiety.

"That feeling is always there so living with it is definitely difficult," he said.

Right now, Rodriguez is under the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order implemented by President Barack Obama. But he doesn't know if that order will remain in place under a Trump administration.

And being deported would be very difficult for him, Rodriguez said. "I don't think I could make it living in another country that I had basically no exposure to before."

Rodriguez said he's had a positive reaction to his letter and there's a movement on campus pushing to make Seattle University a sanctuary school.

He hopes to help make that happen.