Dear All Letter

Dear students, allies,  DREAMers, and supporters,

I would like to start by expressing my deepest gratitude to all of you for your interest, help and work you have done for me and other DREAMers across the Cornell campus. Your support has given me a tremendous amount of courage and strength, and I am certain that other DREAMers are honored to have supporters like you.

My family and I moved to the United States when I was twelve years old, in June 2001. My family contacted a business owner in New Jersey before we immigrated and he agreed to sell his business to my family. We immigrated, settled down ,and my brother and I started school. It turned out that my family had been scammed by the business owner. Unfortunately, we did not know about this until February of 2002. I could always hear my parents arguing afterwards over what to do and what would happen to my family. I remember my dad asking me, “Do you want to stay in the U.S. or return to Korea?” I did not even hesitate and said I wanted to stay here because I loved this country, my school, and the people around me.

Unlike many other DREAMers, I knew I was undocumented. However, I did not really know what being undocumented meant. I asked myself: “Does it mean I cannot go to school anymore or travel overseas?” During my last year of high school, my mom told me to go to a community college instead of an expensive private university and I listened to her. While I was in community college preparing to transfer to a four-year college, I learned more about what my limitations are as an undocumented immigrant. In terms of going to college, I cannot get federal financial aid. I also do not qualify for state residency tuition in New Jersey, not because I pay too little tax, but because I am undocumented. Fortunately, Cornell, with its need-blind admission policy, accepted my application as a transfer student.

During the summer before I came to Cornell, I worked hard to save money for my education. I applied for international financial aid but I was deferred. With those savings and some of the savings from my parents, I could successfully finish my first year at Cornell. But those savings were not enough; in fact, they are not even close to what I need to continue my education at Cornell so I decided to take a leave of absence and plan my future steps.

During the time that I was away, I worked long days and nights in order to save money. I joined a non-profit organization to work on comprehensive immigration reform during the first year of the Obama Administration. From my discussions with Congressmen, I figured that comprehensive immigration reform was impossible so I came back to New York and worked in restaurants and as a tutor. I also saved extra money by working on websites.

With the savings I made in New York and generous people’s donations, I came back to finish my junior year at Cornell. I am very thankful for everyone who helped me.

Now I am here. Over the winter, I raised $10,000 out of the $20,000 I owed for the Fall 2011 semester. Now, I need your help. Even if I raise $10,000 through this campaign, I still have to raise another $20,000 for the Spring 2012 semester. But I do not want to give up. My status and financial difficulties can slow me down, but with your help, they will not stop me from achieving my long time goal of graduating from Cornell University, making me the first member of my family to receive a college degree.

Please make a contribution and show that the Cornell community supports its mission that any person, can find instruction in any study. Even a person like me.

Thank you.


Eric Hyun Jae Cheon

Information Science, System and Technology ‘12
College of Engineering
Cornell University


Please click HERE to sign the petition

Popular Questions that People Ask Me

Since I launched my blog, a lot of people asked me more detail about how I ended up being in Cornell. So I thought it would be a good idea to jog down some of the questions that people have in their mind, and the answers that I have for them.

I hope this will clarify everyone!

Q: How did you get accepted to Cornell if you are undocumented?
A: Cornell University has need-blind admission policy. It not only includes your financial ability to pay the tuition, but also includes your immigration status. The US Congress has passed a bill that lets any children in the United States be able to attend K-12 public schools system with presence of student’s parents or legal guardians. But there is no bill specifically mentioning about undocumented students attending colleges or universities. Fortunately, Cornell does accept undocumented students in their admission, so as long as you keep up with your school work and the test scores, you can get into Cornell

Q: You said you are not registered. How can you attend classes?
A: The deadline for registering to the university without recurring the late fee is Feb 10th. Usually they give up to 2 weeks for students to solve any problems that they face and waive the late fee depending on the situation. So basically the University Registrar impose a $350 late fee to any student registering after the third week of classes, or $500 after the sixth week. And students are allowed to go to class and have access to university programs such as blackboard and bus passes. But I have to clear the balance from the previous terms in order to be registered anytime soon, otherwise I will be withdrawn from the university.

Q: You are a senior right now, and you said you need to clear the pervious terms that you owned to the university. How did you pay the previous tuition in your Sophomore and junior year?
A: I transfered to Cornell as a second semester sophomore. Before I came here, I worked full time in summer in order to pay the tuition. I set up a monthly payment program, paying $5,000 per month for 10 month. After a year in Cornell, I took a leave of absent, working full time to save money to come back. During those times, I met a lot of good people who wants to privately donate/lend some money to me so that I can go back to Cornell. And they includes my family members and relatives, co-workers and friends. So I had enough money to attend my junior year. And Now I am facing this challenge again to pay for my senior year, and I need your help this time!!

I hope these Q&A post helped you understand me better. If you have any further questions, just leave a comment and I will address it as soon as possible!