This week in front of the New York City office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, two members of the New York State Youth Leadership Council were arrested during a peaceful demonstration urging the governor to pass the state’s version of the DREAM Act. After the arrests, NYSYLC published the words of the two individuals arrested, Verónica Bayetti Flores and Marco Galaviz.
Here is what Flores wrote:
I am a queer immigrant writer, activist, and artist. I’ve worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color, and helped to lead social justice efforts in Wisconsin, New York City, and Texas.
Today, I stand as an ally to undocumented youth in the effort to demand the passage of the New York State DREAM Act, which has the potential to radically transform undocumented young people’s access to education in New York. In preparing for today’s action, I re-read the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail; the powerful lessons of this open letter remain relevant today. In it, Dr. King assures us that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, and that it must be not only demanded by the oppressed, but demanded now. That, although those who have not suffered from racial injustice too often claim that the time is not right, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
Justice has been denied to undocumented immigrants for too long. I am doing this today because I am a reproductive justice activist, and I know that education impacts access to health care. I am doing this today because I am queer, and I know that queer youth of color in New York are disproportionately poor and unable to afford housing, much less the rising costs of higher education. I am doing this today because, as an immigrant who was not eligible for financial aid when I applied for college, I know that most will not have the luck and the privilege that I had when I was still able to access the education has been integral to my success and happiness.
The comprehensive immigration reform being discussed in Congress will not address many of these concerns, and will leave much to be desired. State efforts like the New York DREAM Act remain critical in to the path toward justice for undocumented youth. Today, I demand that Governor Cuomo make this bill a priority. He needs to know that he does not have Latinos and immigrants in the bag if he has his eyes set on a presidential run in 2016: we need action, and we are watching.
Here is what Galaviz wrote:
I am 21 years old and a student at New York University, studying film and television. I am doing this action, because as someone who is formally undocumented, I know how it feels to not be able to go to school because of lack of financial aid. I remember being accepted to NYU, while still being undocumented and being denied both federal and school financial aid, and was forced to defer for a year, and put on hold my college dream. No one should have to go through that. I urge Gov. Cuomo to pass the NY Dream Act.