Queens Undocumented Youth Speak Out

By TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

Hopeful young undocumented immigrants shared their stories with Public Advocate candidate Reshma Saujani and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) at a town hall titled, “DREAMers for Reshma,” on Aug. 22 at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights.

“When I think about who inspires me, it’s the DREAMers,” Saujani said. “They have so much to lose—so much more to lose than all of us [with status]—but they are out there fighting everyday.”

When Razeen Zaman, 23, a resident of Jackson Heights, said she found out at the age of 14 that she and her family are undocumented immigrants, she was angry and confused, but was asked to remain silent about her status.

She also found out that she would not be able to apply for a work permit, a driver’s license or receive financial aid for college like all of her other friends were doing at the time.

Zaman said she wanted to continue her education after high school and never thought otherwise. Therefore, she did not allow her status to come in the way of her 4.0 grade point average during her time at Sarah Lawrence College or her admission to law school.

Now a campaign organizer for the New York State Youth Leadership Council, Zaman was one of the first undocumented youth to transcribe what is now the NYS Dream Act.

“Oppression is not my permanent condition,” Zaman said. “Being public about your status is the safest thing to do because you build trust and community around your story.”

Zaman, along with 15 undocumented youth, traveled by foot for nine days to Albany from the City to advocate for the DREAM Act, as a grassroots effort not common to many.

She said they all had to express the urgency of passing this bill because their parents did not “cross the oceans for their kids to be denied the right for education.”

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13