Two weeks ago our National Field Organizer Stephanie Alvarado had the opportunity to speak at the Undocumented and Unafraid Rally in Union Square. Her powerful words were condemning the actions of people who stigmatize undocumented youth. Yet there was optimism within the crowd, and a fervor that showed that these young folks were not about to give up. “While the DREAM Act may have died on Capitol Hill, our voices remain strong,” said Stephanie.
There were 19 students sharing their story. They told of how they did not let the hopelessness or fear stop them from accomplishing their goals. Being undocumented was a hurdle that they didn’t let stop them, but unfortunately not everyone is as lucky. The rally was important for talking about the thousands of students who drop out of school because they don’t see a future. Having an education is one of the most important things for Latinas. “Educational attainment is one way that Latinas can have access to information, resources and services that will help them make informed and autonomous decisions, enhancing their central role in their families and communities,” said Stephanie.
Partnering with the New York State Youth Leadership Council we have an opportunity to change statistics and empower Latino kids in our communities. It is amazing to see the bravery of the students have direct result in the policy agenda for New York State. A couple of days after the rally, State Senator Bill Perkins introduced the New York DREAM Act. To qualify for the benefits of DREAM such as financial aid, work authorization, and pathway to citizenship, the young person must have arrived to the United States before the age of 16, be under the age of 35, have resided in New York State for at least two years, have obtained a high school diploma or GED equivalent from an American institution and have good moral character.
I believe this is our chance to show the rest of America how powerful the young Latino voice can be. And contrary to states like Arizona, where harmful anti-immigrant laws have been dominating, we can pass a bill that will help immigrant youth and help our state. As Stephanie said, we stand with the DREAMERS and will continue fighting for Salud, Dignidad, y Justicia!
By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern