Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Dan-el Padilla came to the United States with his family at the age of four. Falling out of legal immigration status after overstaying their visas, he and his family lived in poverty and spent a year in New York City's shelter system. With the support of mentors, he was admitted to a private all-boys' school on Manhattan's Upper West Side, from which he graduated cum laude in 2002.
He received his BA in Classics, summa cum laude, from Princeton University where he was chosen salutatorian of the class of 2006. He then received his MPhil in Greek and Roman History from the University of Oxford, and a PhD in Classics from Stanford University.
He is currently a Mellon Research Fellow and Lecturer in Classics at Columbia University. In the summer of 2016, he will be returning to Princeton as an assistant professor in Classics. His newly published memoir Undocumented recounts his coming of age as an undocumented immigrant in the many communities he came to call home. He is not an American citizen, and is currently living and working on a work visa, but he is hoping this will change soon as his wife is an American citizen.
This experience, as an undocumented person living in another country has been a source of tremendous stress for him: “I used to live, in part because of the conditioning of my childhood and adolescence, in this state of expectation that something really bad was about to come our way.”
When talking about his life as an undocumented person in the US, Dan’s mother said, “I would have liked for the narrative to have been one with less suffering.”
His migration story and his more recent success as an academic has been covered by major US media outlets including, The New York Times.