Brayan Montes-Terrazas, Dreamers United co-president, talks diversity at CSU, overcoming pressures of DACA status

Julia Trowbridge

Brayan Montes-Terrazas poses in Rockwell West
Brayan Montes-Terrazas, a Dreamer and a junior studying business, poses in the Rockwell West Hall at Colorado State University. As a dreamer in one of the least diverse colleges at CSU, Montes- Terrazas constantly starts the conversation on DACA and what it’s like to be undocumented, further educating his peers on issues currently being debated in politics. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Brayan Montes-Terrazas is a well-known face on Colorado State University’s campus. He’s a junior in the College of Business and a leader in various CSU clubs and organizations. This would not have been possible without a policy that has been prevalent in the public eye since the beginning of President Trump’s candidacy: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

Montes-Terrazas immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was 3-years-old. After his family visited on vacation, he said his mother saw how everyone seemed more successful and worry-free and decided that she wanted that for her child.

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“My parents came over for the prospects of a better life, at which point it was only for me,” Montes-Terrazas said. “The fact that they risked their lives so much just for me is huge, and that’s honestly what keeps me going on a lot of days.”

Montes-Terrazas didn’t know he was undocumented until he was in eighth grade when his parents wouldn’t let him go on a school trip to San Diego. They claimed it was for financial reasons.

“I knew that was a lie,” Montes-Terrazas said. “I kept digging at it, and they said, ‘We’re scared that you’ll get taken away if you get too close to the border.'”

I think that’s the biggest thing that gets me up in the morning: knowing that I can make an impact, not only academically, but in all these different organizations.” – Brayan Montes-Terrazas, a junior DACA recipient at CSU studying business 

Montes-Terrazas said his status separates him in the College of Business. It is one of the least diverse colleges at CSU, according to the 2016-2017  CSU Factbook. His background allows him the opportunity to start a conversation about the issues surrounding Dreamers.

“I think that, with all topics, most people don’t really care until someone in their life is affected by it,” said Kate Coviello, a junior fermentation sciences major and friend of Montes-Terrazas. “He’s just educated me on so many societal misconceptions.”

The lack of diversity at CSU can be difficult for a Dreamers and international students, Montes-Terrazas said. For example, Montes-Terrazas was in a CSU classroom one time when he said a police officer pulled over someone driving outside the window. The professor singled out an international student in the class and said, “Look, they’re here to come get you.”

“I immediately thought, ‘Oh goodness, you cannot say that,'” Montes-Terrazas said. “I’m not a very correct-y person. I have this thought that you have to meet people where they’re at. They’re not always as informed on culture and identity, but that one kind of threw me.”

Throughout his life, Montes-Terrazas’s parents emphasized the importance of education, which has lead Montes-Terrazas to be an involved and hardworking individual. In addition to working a job and holding leadership positions in two fraternities, Montes-Terrazas is the co-president of Dreamers United, a registered student organization for DACA students at CSU that has been officially organized for almost two years. The organization allows Dreamers a space to come together and share common experiences, in addition to hosting speakers like Jose Antonio Vargas who came to CSU last month.

Although Montes-Terrazas was not one of the initial founders, he got involved early in the organization’s creation. For Montes-Terrazas, the biggest reason he got involved was because there was a definite need to have a space on campus solely for Dreamers. 

“I feel like the biggest thing about undocumented students is that we fall into a statistic and not a humanizing factor, and I feel like we just now are learning that we are more than just our status,” Montes-Terrazas said. “We are human beings and people.”

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MacKenna Norris, a junior studying business and friend of Montes-Terrazas, said he disproves the common misconceptions about Mexican-Americans on DACA and other Dreamers. 

“He is definitely the most involved person I’ve ever met in my whole life,” Norris said. “He just kind of takes the bull by the horns in everything that he does and really embodies, to me, what a hardworking student is. … I think that the media in general kind of puts a spin on everyone’s perception of undocumented immigrants and what their roles in society are, and he is just kind of the complete antithesis of all of that.” 

 

Common misconceptions about DACA recipients-

Misconception: Dreamers do not pay taxes.

Reality: According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, Dreamers pay around $11.64 billion –annually in taxes.

Misconception: Dreamers are protected under DACA even if they are criminals. 

Reality: People who apply for DACA must prove they have a clean record.  

 

Montes-Terrazas said he loves helping others, whether through his work with Dreamers United or other organizations on campus. He said he wouldn’t be the same person if he wasn’t so involved. 

“I think that’s the biggest thing that gets me up in the morning: knowing that I can make an impact, not only academically, but in all these different organizations,” Montes-Terrazas said. “I can actually make a difference, even if it’s in one person’s life. I want to be a part of something bigger.”

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.