Former undocumented student advocates on immigrant rights

By Ali Corona

Michael Geovanny Felix, a 19-year-old former undocumented student at East Los Angeles College never worried about his immigration status. He grew up a normal kid in East Los Angeles from the age of five. In his junior year of high school, Felix realized he would need to have proper documentation to attend college.

“The problems begin when you want to go to college,” Felix said.

Felix was a featured guest speaker at ELAC’s Labor, Immigration & Education conference. Felix talked about his role model, sister Cinthya Felix. “My sisters’ drive is what drives me because she accomplished so much, even with her illegal status,” Felix said.

Felix’s sister Cynthia was able to attend University of California, Los Angeles on an AB-540 status and received a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Spanish and a minor in Mexican Studies. “So basically you come to this country as an immigrant and you master the language,” Felix said.

While attending ELAC, Cynthia was a part of the group Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success (IDEAS). A support and advocacy group, completely founded by undocumented students at UCLA. IDEAS has an annual Immigrant Youth Empowerment conference where in over one thousand potential college students attend. Students learn from each other about the resources available to them after high school. IDEAS also fundraises money for scholarships to help keep undocumented students in school.

Cynthia and fellow undocumented friends decided to take a trip to Washington, a state where if one does not have a social security number can show proof of Washington residence. She was able to take her drivers license test using a friend’s address. It was the first time Cynthia could drive with a license.

“Cynthia applied for Columbia School of Public Health and she was actually the first undocumented student to attend the University,” Felix said. “Even with her circumstances and barriers, she was still going to make it and she did,” Felix said.

Cynthia, who was still undocumented throughout the time she attended Columbia, did not allow barriers to stop her from being able to pay for her classes and attend Columbia. “She was accepted as a student, but she couldn’t get help from them because of her status,” says Felix.

In May 2010, Cynthia and a few close friends decided to take a trip to Maine to sight-see. The car Cynthia was in was struck by a drunk driver. As a result, all the passengers in the vehicle died including Cynthia. Cynthia died on May 15th, 2010, at the age of 26.

“Cynthia had accomplished so much already and all while being undocumented.” Felix is inspired by his sister but  was discouraged by the loss. He decided to attend ELAC, without being sure of what he would pursue.

Felix got involved on campus because he felt like if he did not do anything about the immigration status issues that many students experience, no one would. He was involved in educating voters on Prop 30, in 2011. Prop 30 passed and Obama announced he would implement Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also knows as DACA. This would provide temporary protective status to young undocumented students.

Felix was volunteering at the Coalition for Human Dream, Network, and the Coalition for humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). “Most people aren’t aware of these laws that help them, and so we help bring awareness,” said Felix.

“And to this day that’s what we do, but now we have changed our objective and rather than just spreading the news about deferred action, we are doing Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” said Felix. Felix and the groups he is involved in continue to work and push toward reform. Felix recently received temporary protected status which opens up other options and door of opportunity for him and has no doubt that he will achieve what he has set out to achieve.

“The student issue of not being legally here, I could battle the system legally if I know more about the system. Working in Political Science, I could fix my situation and help others at the same time, like maybe running for office and changing policies,” says Felix about his current issue and his ambitions.

Felix is the former President of the  Student for Political Awareness club at ELAC. He is active in many immigration youth movement groups.




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