In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and emphasizing the importance of being prepared for a professional world, LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC) welcomed Angie Cruz on October 31st in the E-building’s Poolside Café. Ms. Cruz, who previously visited the campus in 2017, is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, writer of short stories and […]
On Monday, April 16th, 2018, LaGuardia Community College (LaGCC) hosted a symposium on Latinx Culture with an overarching theme of mental health in the Latinx community.
The event featured a screening of the film, Don’t Tell Anyone (No le Digas a Nadie) directed by Mikaele Shwer. The film follows the story of a young Colombian undocumented woman, Angy Rivera, as she tries to set up a life for herself in the United States while speaking up for the rights of other undocumented youth.
The film tells a story of a young girl who started her journey by simply speaking with other undocumented youths and answering questions on her online advice column, the first of its kind dedicated to undocumented youths, known as “Ask Angy”. The film covers Maria Rivera, Ms. Rivera’s mother, and her unsettled feeling about revealing the nature of their immigration status, one that would have torn her family apart in fear of deportation. While discussing her mother’s concerns, Ms. Rivera expresses concern over the fate of her younger siblings who wouldn’t suffer deportation since they are U.S. citizens.
The film also covers Ms. Rivera’s experience with college and applying for financial aid. As an undocumented immigrant without a social security number, she couldn’t apply for financial aid. This proved to be problematic since she would have had to pay out of pocket. As a result, she began selling handmade bracelets which earned her news coverage by the New York Times and one full- paid semester by a kind stranger. Even after this, Ms. Rivera found herself in the difficult position of having to constantly drop out of college due to a lack of financial resources.
There comes a point, in 2010 where Ms. Rivera’s frequent gatherings with other undocumented youths lead to a courageous and risky move. They decided to gather and “come out” as undocumented immigrants in a public display in front of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in New York City, an act that she confesses was dangerous, though it does leave her with a feeling of relief and free from the constraints of carrying a damning secret.
Eventually, Ms. Rivera learns that she is applicable for a U-Visa, which is available to individuals who were victims of crime while in the US. The film ends with Ms. Rivera receiving the visa and her affirmation that she will keep fighting for the rights of other undocumented people.
After the screening of Don’t Tell Anyone (No le Digas a Nadie), the one thing that stood out was Ms. Rivera’s emotional response to receiving her U-Visa. After a long, nerve-wracking wait, she received the news that her U-Visa application had been approved. You would expect her to be overjoyed, to start celebrating, to let out a joyous and hopeful laugh. You’d be disappointed. Rivera didn’t let out a joyous and hopeful laugh, nor did she celebrate. She cried, she cried with good reason. She cried tears of grief and anger because it took a vile violation of her body and self to be considered for a U-Visa; it took an act of violence to be given a chance of life in the United States.
After a talk with a counselor, she told the camera, and in turn the people following her story, how she felt, “It makes me mad that being abused makes you legible. Being raped makes you legible. But not just living here and having a family and giving back. That doesn’t matter, you know?”
Prejudice and ignorance block the road for many victims of crime on their path to receiving a U- Visa, like Ms. Rivera. In an article published in a 2016 issue of the New York Times, “Immigrant Crime Victims Seeking Special Visas Find a Tough Path,” the story of a woman named Yoselin brings to light “police prejudice” and “ignorance of the law on the part of court officials.” In Yoselin’s case, her claims were dismissed as something that is “very common among Latinos.” An official even dismissed her claim as an “attempt to get ‘this visa thing.’” Hamilton, a successful Broadway show, spawned much controversy and a mixtape. One of its songs, titled “Immigrants,” talks about the day-to-day and grand scale injustices that immigrants face when living in America. The song begins with what sounds like a news broadcast where the announcer talks about border control. The announcer’s closing line is, “It’s really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants, ‘immigrant’ has somehow become a bad word.”
The Latinx Symposium provided students with the opportunity to listen to the stories of other Latinx individuals struggling with mental health. The film Don’t Tell Anyone (No le Digas a Nadie) provided the students of LaGCC to bear witness to the immense bravery it took for a young woman to relive her struggles for a chance at life.
Violent crimes leave the victims with a lasting trauma that is often left untreated due to the stigma that the Latinx community holds against mental illness. When people come to realize this, it becomes clear why it is unfair and inhumane to force people to relive their worst memories for the chance at a life in America. Rivera’s story is a clear reason why such expectations shouldn’t be held.
These expectations invalidate Ms. Rivera’s accomplishments. A woman who graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a major in Cultural and Deviance Studies, a woman who sold bracelets to afford an education, a woman who provided hope to many undocumented youths when they most needed it, and a woman who keeps fighting for the rights of undocumented youths. It puts in perspective the hypocritical view that the American lawmakers have of undocumented immigrants and their basic human rights of life, liberty, and happiness.