By: Diana I went to elementary and middle school in Fort Myers, Florida. In eighth grade all I could think about was going to school, hanging out with my friends, watching Hannah Montana and playing with my nephew. I had dreamed of going to the same high school my brothers had gone to and having classes with my friends.
In May of 2011 my dad picked me up early from school, and when I got in the car all he said was, “We are leaving to NEW YORK CITY.” It was around new years; I had been living in the Bronx, for about 8 months. Monday through Friday, my day consisted of getting up, going to school and then returning right after the bell rang, to my new “home.” I would come “home” and wait, for what seem like hours, for my father, who I hadn’t seen all day, because he had to leave earlier than me to go to work. On the weekends, I rarely left my room. If I did it was only to the grocery store and the laundromat. This is not how I expected my freshman year to be.
A lot had happened in a year.
I said goodbye to my friends, teachers and nephew.But I never got the chance to even hug my brother goodbye; he had been at an immigration detention center for months.
Moving to New York City meant changes, a new school, new friends, and no family. Yes, I lived with my dad and other brother, but it wasn’t the same. I would cry myself to sleep, wondering why I couldn’t see my oldest brother, my nephew, my sister-in-law. I even thought of suicide.
One day I decided to Google, “DREAM Act”, something I didn’t exactly understood, but I knew somehow it could change my life. I came upon DREAMActivist.org and subscribed to their emails. I was following them on the downlow for months, until one day I decided that I didn’t want to feel helpless, I wanted to do something. I emailed DREAM Activist: “I would like to help somehow but I don’t work so i can’t donate. I really would like to help in a way, any suggestions? Any Dream Groups near?”
It’s a windy winter day, I had googled the address to the New York State Youth Leadership Council, I even tried memorizing it. I was nervous, scared and excited. I didn’t know what to expect. How old will they be? Will they look at me weird? Should I tell them I’m in high school Will they ask if I am “illegal?” A million questions were on my mind, I was thinking of the worst scenarios.
I sat on that number 6 train for what seemed forever. Finally the next stop, Bleecker Street.
Anyone who has ever tried finding the NYSYLC office for the first time understands how hard it is to find the black door, hidden between two boutiques. I walked around for about twenty minutes, until I finally realized, I had passed the place several times!
I was attending a general meeting. I learned what the NYSLC is and what they do. I also learned about the New York Dream Act. It was also the first time I had heard someone talk about their status openly.
Ever since then I have been involved. At first I went to all the workshops they held. Then I started helping out in any way I could, organizing events, and even helping clean after. The NYSYLC gave me that space for me to come out, and lose that fear that I had been carrying.
Being undocumented in Florida to me was being afraid of the police, being afraid of people finding out I had not been born In the U.S. I was afraid of my friends rejecting me because I was different. Every time my oldest brother drove, I prayed to God, for him not to be pulled over by the police. Unfortunately, my brother was stopped, and he is now in Mexico.
Every time I tell my story at an event, I am not just telling my story, I am sharing the story of my family, and of my brother who didn’t get the chance. It will soon be 2 years since I got involved with the NYSYLC, and it has definitely changed my life. I am now a core member at the NYSYLC.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the United Nations for the International Day of the Girl Child, about living and being undocumented.
And to just imagine everything changed with just a train ride downtown. Whether you are in New York City or not, don’t be afraid, find a community, and be involved. Being Undocumented is hard, but finding a group like the NYSYLC, may just save your life.