Tam Ngoc Tran was everything an illegal immigrant isn't supposed to be: non-Mexican. College-educated–scratch that, a college graduate. Fully assimilated. A contributor to this country rather than a leech. American.
She was among the country's more prominent undocumented college students, a 2007 graduate of UCLA pursuing a doctorate at Brown University who had previously testified before Congress in favor of the DREAM Act, a proposed bill that would grant citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of young people who illegally came to this country as children, did what they were supposed to do as students, and went on to college. Though Tran was born in Germany to Vietnamese refugees, she was as Orange County as they come–a 2001 graduate of Santiago High School in Garden Grove who attended Santa Ana College before transferring to UCLA, and tutoring kids here whenever possible. She told her story in
Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out, a UCLA publication that gathered the stories of other students like Tran.
But now, this beloved 27-year-old is gone, killed in a car crash in Maine along with her fellow DREAMer, Cinthya Felix of Los Angeles.
The Bangor Daily News is reporting that Tran and Felix (also a UCLA graduate) were passengers in a car that was struck head-on by a truck yesterday afternoon. Police are still investigating the crash, but Felix died at the scene, while Tran passed away a couple of hours later.
There will be a memorial service for Tran and Felix tomorrow at 3 p.m., at UCLA's Young Grand Salon in Kerckhoff Hall. Already, friends are flooding Tran's Facebook page with testimonials to the young woman's worth. But we close with Tran's 2007 testimony before Congress:
Graduation for many of my friends
isn't a rite of passage to becoming a responsible adult. Rather, it is the last phase in which they
can feel a sense of belonging as an American. As an American university student, my friends
feel a part of an American community–that they are living out the American dream among their
peers. But after graduation, they will be left behind by their American friends as my friends are
without the prospect of obtaining a job that will utilize the degree they've earned; my friends will
become just another undocumented immigrant.