"Don't Tell Anyone" documentary: What it means to NOT be afraid
At first sight, Angy Rivera seems like your average American college student juggling classes, internships, extra curricular activities and a social life. Going about her day in New York City one might never suspect the impact this young activist is causing in her community.
Angy is the author of the first and only undocumented youth advice column. Founded by the New York State Youth Leadership council, the column provides a safe space for undocumented youth to ask questions anonymously. She is one of the key figures in the “Undocumented and Unafraid” movement which seeks to give a voice to young Americans born in other countries who were brought here illegally by their parents at a young age.
Angy is a firm believer in coming out of the shadows and speaking out for your rights. She opened the doors of her home and her life to a group of film makers who are documenting her story. I was very intrigued by the movie trailer and decided to have a talk with her about what motivated her to go this public. Here’s our conversation:
Why do activism Angy? Why not just go on with your life and get your “papers” like most of us do?
I decided to do activism because it is not just about me. It’s about a million young people striving for a future. Activism keeps me sane instead of sitting in my helplessness. It also helps me connect with other youth in the same circumstance, it makes us a community.
What is the point of “coming out” as undocumented?
I came out in a rally in March 2010, before that time I was afraid all the time. My mom taught me to live in fear because of my status but I realized later how much fear limits you. Coming out has allowed me to conquer over my fears of being deported, of being discriminated and labeled. It encourages others to come out. It makes me a more honest person. When nobody knew about my status I felt as if I lived in a lie because the most simple question (i.e. when were you last in your country? Did you fill out your FAFSA?) could lead into a situation. Now I can give honest answers without being ashamed.
I have heard lots of Americans both political and not, say that this movement has no bases because the system “does not owe you anything”, what do you have to say to them?
Well, the entire system is benefiting from our cheap labor, most farm workers are undocumented. We pay taxes that we don’t get back, we pay for education out of pocket and the system takes our money knowing it is unlikely we’ll get hired without a SSN. We are not asking for privileges we just want to have access to the things anyone needs to function in this society like a social security number, financial aid for education, well paying jobs, the assurance that our family can stay together, affordable health care.
Do you think you may be expecting too much from a system that is obviously flawed? A lot of Americans that are born here don’t have health care or well paying jobs.
I don’t think so. The system is worn and broken. Wealth and power keep going to the same places while the working class gets less and less opportunities. We are not taking away anything that belongs to Americans; we are also not to blame for the flaws of the system. We simply live here and want the same rights.
I understand why you’d want to go public and fight for your rights but, why make a movie about it? What are you looking to accomplish?
I expect to get other people involved and push them to share their stories; to come out of the shadows and be comfortable with what has happened to them and what their life is like. I want to let other youth know that is okay to TELL others about your status that is okay to be who you are. Most undocumented youth have mixed up identities; you are not from here or from there. I want to touch on those issues and to present the public with a full picture of what is like to be an immigrant in America, of how we are different while being the same.
I understand from the trailer that the film touches on your experience as a survivor of sexual abuse, why include that in a film of this nature?
I decided to talk about that because it was one other thing I was told NOT to tell, besides disclosing my undocumented status. I was ashamed for a longtime, blaming my self for it. It was really a mixture of things because it is connected to my immigration process. Being a crime victim makes me qualify for a U-visa, which is the path I am taking to citizenship, although that means I have to talk about it and relive the entire experience. My mom, who had been supportive about me coming out as undocumented, was very disapproving of me sharing my experience with abuse. Because of that silence I did not know I even qualified for that. How are we supposed to have access to information and resources if nobody talks about things? I am just ready to peel off all these layers of shame.
In the other hand I am curious about what the reaction of many republicans will be to the film. I went to a screening and discussion of the film about rape in the military (The Invisible War) and saw the republican reaction to this shameful acts. I wonder if they’ll have the same sensitivity towards my story or whether they will treat me as if I am less human, or less of a victim because of my status.
How is your day to day different than any other person?
Well, because I am in New York I can blend in easily. There is no driving involved in my life. But having no ID is a problem; I can only have a cellphone with no contract because I have no credit history, no credit cards, and no financial aid for college. I cannot apply to jobs and I cannot leave the country which is the worst feeling. My grandma passed away recently in Colombia and we couldn’t see her in her last days or visit her remains, it was a very sad time for our family.
What about your mental health? Does being undocumented affect you emotionally in any way?
Yes. I can get very depressed if I stop moving. It makes me sad to see my friends graduating, traveling, moving forward while I cannot. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I have always tried to excel in school and in my internships; it helps me to compensate for all this feelings of inadequacy. Writing for the column helps me, and the YouTube channel, just to let it all out and help others help themselves. It is a great motivator.
If you had onw wish granted, what would it be?
That we did not have borders.
The film is scheduled to be released in 2014 by Seed and Spark studios. The filmmakers are currently raising funds to be able to finish the project and release it on time. You can donate towards the completion of the film and see the trailer in their home page or by visiting www.nodigasfilm.com (Follow @nodigasfilm )