Advice for the Undocumented

Photo: Danny Kim

President Obama’s decision to halt deportations of some illegal immigrants came amid a new political tactic by undocumented activists: “outing” themselves to put a face on the issue. One, a 21-year-old Colombian-born college student named Angy Rivera, has become the movement’s Dear Abby, writing an advice column for the young and paperless on the website of the reformist New York State Youth Leadership Council. Here, a selection of her posts.

1. Dear Angy:
I dated this guy for five years. I’m sure he knew my status, but we never discussed it. I didn’t want him to believe I was with him just for the papers. Recently we started talking again. How do I deal with this subject? It’s so hard to not feel ashamed. —Adriana

Dear Adriana:
If you decide to spend the rest of your days with this person, then I do suggest telling him you are undocumented. He may or may not love you the same after finding out, [but] this chance at love … is something we all take, undocumented or not.

2. Dear Angy:
I am from Pennsylvania, and I really want to fly out to California soon, but I am undocumented. What should I do?

Dear Namin:
As much as we hate it, people do get profiled in the airport. Don’t overdress or underdress. Dress comfortably, like you fly all the time. Fly in and out of local airports. International airports are riskier. [After landing], leave the airport right away, don’t mingle, and call whoever your contacts were to let them know you are safe. They were probably worried!

3. Dear Angy:
I am a student at UCLA, and I feel lost in such a big school. People here are so much smarter, and my status makes it that much harder to feel welcomed. Any advice? —Lupe

Dear Lupe:
Fitting in can be awkward, but it’s also irrelevant. You got accepted into the same school, the same way everyone else did. There’s no way you are less smart because of your immigration status.

4. Dear Angy:
I always wanted to have kids, and still do, but it just seems very selfish of me when I won’t be able to take care of them the way I would want to. I grew up feeling sorry and guilty for my father. He had to work three jobs in order to support us. I’m afraid to do the same thing to my kids. —Mia

Dear Mia:
You might have a mental image of how you would want to raise your children, and that may not be the way things turn out due to your status. That isn’t bad. Accept yourself for who you are. Providing material things to your children isn’t as valuable as love.

5. Dear Angy:
I am not ashamed of being undocumented, but I never think of “coming out.” I don’t think my status should define me. I would love to be enlightened; how is it empowering for you? —Ali

Dear Ali:
Not everyone can be open about being undocumented. Not everyone can embrace it, and I totally understand why. Many times we come out not for ourselves but for others. We hope to inspire our parents, for example, who are tied down by fear.

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Advice for the Undocumented