Life is difficult for undocumented youth in ways that most of us have never had to consider. The frustrations of being trapped and defined by your status and the inability to fulfill your potential can seem insurmountable. In 2010 Ask Angy became the first advice column for undocumented youth. Since then Angy has been answering questions and offering advice from “Should I tell my new date about my status?” to “How does new immigration policy affect me?”
Angy was born in Colombia before her family moved to Queens, New York. She is currently majoring in Criminology at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Through the New York State Youth Leadership Council she has found a forum in which she can help other undocumented youth and share her experience with people all over the country. She taled to NAM's reporter, Hannah Palmer.
What inspired you to start Ask Angy?
Ask Angy started in October 2010 and it was just an idea, I didn’t really think that anyone was going to ask me anything. I am a member at the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSLC), which is an undocumented youth organization in the state of New York. It was there that I started the advice column. Some of the members had asked me if there was anything that I found missing in the organization, that I wanted to contribute, and I said it would be nice if we had an advice column.
Do most of your questions come from other members of the NYSYLC?
No, it’s national now so we have questions from all over the country. We’ve been promoting it on Twitter and Facebook and there have been interviews and magazine requests for Ask Angy. The word gets out like that.
How many questions do you receive a week?
When I started I didn’t get any but now I am getting a lot. It’s about one a week on average; it can be much busier when it’s been promoted but usually it’s about one a week.
Did you have any experience in this field before you started the column?
Not really, no. In High School I was the friend that everyone went to when they had problems or needed to talk to someone but I had never done an advice column before.
Do you ever get questions that you feel you can’t answer?
There have been some questions that have been really difficult to answer, that I didn’t know and I had to do research for, like about policies in different states. Another question that was a little bit difficult to answer was from a young woman who wanted to become a mom but she was undocumented so she was a little bit scared about starting a family. So I interviewed my mom and asked her why she decided to have my siblings, and through her experience and her response I was able to answer the question.
Have you seen a change in the kind of questions people ask you?
Yeah, there’s a change now with the deferred action announcement so some questions are more centered around that, asking me how they can apply, what do they need. Before that they were on regular stuff like school, work, family, relationships.
If the DREAM Act does get enacted do you think that there will still be a role for Ask Angy?
Yeah, I think that I would have to carry on because the DREAM Act does not cover everyone, there would still be a lot of people who did not qualify and would still be undocumented. And also just getting the word out about those who do qualify and how to apply. I think that a lot of questions would be about how to apply, what do I need, what happens now?
How does Ask Angy fit into your life?
I am a student and I am undocumented as well so when I answer these questions they are based on things I have experienced myself. Aside from the Ask Angy column I try to do other things like helping with training and leading events and marches. Moving people to do things off line as well, like help in their community and volunteer their services and their work. Because ultimately it’s good to ask the questions but it’s also about encouraging youth to live a life where they’re unafraid and they’re able to own their story and own their struggle and pass that along to others.
You have received hate mail from people. How does this affect you?
It doesn’t affect me because I know it’s not true. So when they call me a roach or a leach I just don’t listen to it, I delete it, I don’t waste energy responding to it because I don’t think it’s really productive. It keeps pushing me to keep doing things because I know that someone out there is getting annoyed and that means that I’m doing the right thing.
Do you feel positive about the future for undocumented youth?
I think it’s both good and bad. The announcement on deferred action doesn’t really change much in terms of immigration status. Some youth would be granted deferment but not everyone would benefit from it. It’s still not enough compared to the DREAM Act or immigration reform and while we have the deferred action policy as a way of getting votes and a political tool, behind the scenes we still have a lot of people being arrested, still being deported, still being held in detention centers with no crime and so I feel like we have a long way to go on both ends. Educating our communities, pushing for release but then also stopping deportations and reuniting separated families, it’s really heart breaking to see it happen.
Ask Angy can be reached at www.nysylc.org/askangy/
To contact Hannah Palmer: firstname.lastname@example.org. Her photography can be seen at www.hannahpalmerphotography.co.uk
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