Dear NYSYLC Family,
We are deeply saddened to be writing this note to you today. As some of you may know, the day after Thanksgiving we all learned that Joaquin Luna, an undocumented student in Texas and firm believer in the DREAM Act, took his own life. It has been reported that Joaquin expressed deep depression and lack of hope over the failure of the DREAM Act last year.
The grief and loss felt by the Luna family is unimaginable, and we extend our deepest condolences to them during these hard times. It is tragic to have a young life in its prime be lost to such distress. We also know that Joaquin is not the only undocumented youth that we have lost to suicide in recent months, nor is he alone in having felt such despair over his life. Undocumented youth are challenged in every step of their lives to find self-worth in a country that continues to demean and dismiss them. We know that at times each of us has felt that this is an impossible task.
However, we are not alone. We are a family and a community. We have each other. We have our futures and our dreams. And we are brave. We go out into a world each day where we are considered less than human. And yet, we have the courage to know that we are human. That we are worthy of all life has to offer. That we need not be afraid of what the future holds, because we will define the future. And we will define it with justice and dignity for all our immigrant brothers and sisters.
To us, undocumented and unafraid means not only having the courage to challenge a broken immigration system, but also having the courage to challenge ourselves to see our own worth. DREAM Act or no DREAM Act, we exist. And we cannot fear that.
We also want to take this time to inform our youth that finding support system is possible in New York and outside of the state. The NYS Youth Leadership Council’s Support Group is a place for youth regardless of status to discuss their feelings, and to come out with a sense of belonging to a bigger community that stands by them in times of hardship. We acknowledge that being undocumented has an emotional impact on our youth, family and friends. We know that coping with being undocumented is difficult.
We encourage you to empower yourself and join with people who understand first hand the struggles and uncertainties you may face. Also, there is no shame in seeking professional mental health services and counseling. Regardless of our gender, class, immigration status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status and age and as taboo as the subject may be, mental health issues need to be addressed because it affects our day to day functions. The YLC Support Group meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month, join us. In New York City, there is some access to health services and counseling at low cost you can check out here. We know that in upstate New York, it may be challenging to obtain mental health services but please stay up to date for a resource guide and we will ensure to cover as many counties as possible. In the meantime, there is a 24 hour, 7 day a week toll free hotline number 1-800-273-TALK. It is confidential and open to all.
You are more than just the Dream Act. You are a worthy individual. You have a name, a purpose, and you matter to us. Never let anyone or anything bring you down. As a human being, you are valued and have so much to contribute to the world around you. Your goals and aspirations are worthy of being accomplished and you belong on this earth. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the Luna family, to numerous youth who have committed suicide and the many more who have thought about it. Do not be afraid in asking for help or revealing your immigration status; there is someone always willing to find the necessary resources for you.
With unconditional love,
The New York State Youth Leadership Council