Glendale College's Student Magazine
Wednesday August 23rd 2017

Jorge Galindo: Undocumented Immigrant Hopes to Change his Own Community

Jorge GalindoIt is 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. I’m scheduled to meet Jorge Galindo at the DMV in Lincoln Heights. Today marks a huge milestone in his life, one many would take for granted.  “This is the day I have been waiting for,” says Jorge.

He is visibly nervous and proceeds to say, “Before I take my written test, why don’t we cross the street to Lincoln Park and we can talk there?”

We sit on picnic benches close to several murals, homeless folks, kids in strollers, a sketch artist and a nun.  Galindo, 21, is well-dressed with a quiet, cool and calm demeanor to him.

 Galindo is an honor student at Glendale Community College who plans to major in neuroscience. He wants to become a medical doctor and help the communities in South Central L.A. and Compton where he grew up.

“I like helping people, and I think that at some point, I’d like to set up small clinics and help other people around our area,” he says. “Healthcare is a very big issue in places like South Central. Where I’m from, one of the rules is you don’t go to the doctor unless you’re dying.”

 “You can’t afford to go have a checkup, because either you check yourself for health problems, or put food on the table. Food is always going to win. In my house, it is very hard to go to the doctor. My mom always said ‘Suck it up. Here’s your Pepto if your stomach hurts.’ That’s an issue because a lot of people in those communities don’t have access to healthcare.”

His parents Ana and Mario work in the sweatshop industry in the fashion district of downtown Los Angeles. They get paid by the number of pieces they sew, which means very long hours and menial pay.

 “I recall when he was a little boy he was always so dedicated to his school,” says Ana.   “My husband and I worked such long hours, so he stayed in preschool or after-school care. But every single time, his teachers and care providers would tell us how smart he was and how much he loved numbers. As he got older, he just loved going to the museum and library. “

Galindo, who graduated with honors from Central City Value High School, knew his future looked promising when he was accepted to every university he applied to, including USC.  “I made the principle’s honor list and the dean’s list,” he says. “I was really good at memorizing things, so I got certificates for reciting, for public speaking. I was very active in school and created a few clubs. I was also ASB president.  I really wanted to go to USC.”

But just after graduation, a devastating blow would put Jorge’s dreams on hold.  His parents never told him he was undocumented or that he did not have a Social Security number.  In addition, his parents would not be able to pay for college.  Applying for state and federal scholarships was something Jorge was counting on, but being undocumented made him ineligible for those types of student aid.

In addition, a counselor misguided him and discouraged him from going further. It seemed that everything he had worked so hard toward was for nothing.

“I wanted to go to med school and I tried looking for a couple of medical internships or volunteer spots that would help me achieve my dream, but so many places required a Social Security number and a few other things I just did not have, says Galindo. “So it was impossible for me to get into these programs.”

“He was even invited to the White House but he just could not go due to the fact he had no legal documentation,” his mother says. “I felt so impotent.   I so wanted to help him.”

Regardless, Galindo’s parents pushed him to go to GCC. This was not the dream college Galindo had in mind. “I went to community college because my parents forced me to. I was there against my will at first. I had given up.”

 Then a young lady befriended Galindo and invited him to a school club, VOICES (Voices Organizing Immigrant Community for Educational Success). He says he went mostly to make friends because he felt alone. But what he says he found was a miracle in the form of knowledge.

“I found this club on campus, where I started the whole activism on immigration reform,” Galindo says.  “At first, I did not want to associate myself with them because I thought people would look me in a demeaning way. When someone is undocumented, there is a lot of shame. I didn’t want to be seen as that.”

But Galindo learned that the California Dream Act, if passed, would allow students just like him to have an opportunity to go to college.

The California Dream Act consists of three bills, the AB 540, AB 130 and AB 131. Together they allow undocumented and nonresident documented students to be treated the same as resident students. They pay the resident fees at public colleges, apply for and receive private scholarships, state-administered financial aid, university grants, community college fee waivers and Cal Grants.

The controversial bill was in fact signed into law in October 2011 by Gov. Jerry Brown, giving thousands of undocumented immigrants a chance at getting an education.

“I was dragged into the whole political scene with the California Dream Network (CDN) almost by mistake, Galindo says, “but then I started assisting their meetings and getting involved. Thanks to them, I got an internship at CHIRLA. That would never have happened had I not come to GCC.”

Galindo’s girlfriend, Kathia Garcia, 22, was also undocumented, graduated with honors from high school and was accepted to UCLA. But regrettably, she ended up not being able to attend due to her legal status and financial means.

Today, she looks up to Galindo. “I really like his confidence, especially the way he speaks in front of people,” says Garcia. “I remember he did this speech on the day deferred action came out. I would’ve fainted. That was pretty brave. I also like that he is knowledgeable.”

Galindo wants to continue educating others. He organizes for CDN in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley region, in hopes that Congress will pass the Federal Dream Act.

He sees a bright future, and has refocused his goals and now wants to go to UCLA.  Galindo passed his DMV written exam – having a driver’s license would not have been possible without an employment authorization document.  The EAD or work permit allows young people like Galindo to work in the United States, another benefit of the DREAM Act.

If there is anything life has taught Jorge Galindo, it’s that you never give up. To him, it is about beating the odds, even when those odds are against you. He says, “There’s always a way for you to get a desired position if you keep at it. That is one of the greatest things I’ve learned at GCC. Perseverance does have a lot to do with getting to your dreams.”

About Lorena Mendez-Quiroga
Lorena Mendez-Quiroga is a documentary filmmaker. This is her first semester on the Insider staff.

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