College students around the country are graduating this weekend, but the achievement is particularly special for one North Texan. Jose Santoyo came to the United States from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant. Saturday, he spoke for the graduating SMU class of 2016.
“Being a first generation college student has broken a cycle for my family and my expectations that higher education was out of my reach,” said Santoyo.
Santoyo has lived in the U.S. since he was 8-years-old. He studied at SMU under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The organization protects undocumented children in the U.S. from deportation for two years at a time; allowing them to find work or even go to school.
“I grew up in this country, I grew up as American, as your next door neighbor, but on the other hand, I experienced a life of uncertainty created by the fear of deportation,” said Santoyo during his commencement speech.
Santoyo’s education was privately funded by a donor with the Latino Center for Leadership. The funding made it possible for him to get a degree in Human Rights and Spanish.
Santoyo delivered a message to not just other documented immigrants, but fellow graduates as well, “We all owe it to them, not only myself but the rest of the graduates, to use our education to help other people, to make sure people have these kinds of opportunities.”
Santoyo’s DACA status expires in August. It’s unclear what will happen to the program under the Trump administration. In the meantime, Santoyo says he hopes to pursue a law degree.