Activist Angy Rivera advocates for undocumented voices

by Benjamin Frohman / Beacon Correspondent • September 16, 2015

Rivera advocates for undocumented immigrants.
Rivera advocates for undocumented immigrants.

Angy Rivera proudly stands in a public street. She wears a white t-shirt emblazoned with the word “undocumented” in bright red letters, and she speaks into a microphone, using only her words as a beacon for unauthorized immigrants in America. 

This was one of many powerful scenes in the documentary “No Le Digas a Nadie (Don’t Tell Anyone),” which screened at the Bright Family Screening Room on Sept. 15. It chronicles Rivera’s life as an undocumented immigrant in the United States. Following her over a three-year span, the documentary looks in on her family life and shows her “coming out” as undocumented to the public. It also focuses on the struggles she faced during her youth in the American education system and the success of her protests. 

Liam Gibbons, a freshman visual and media arts major, was one of around 60 who attended the screening. 

“It changed my views in that it put a face and a story to who we call illegal immigrants,” Gibbons said.

In October 2010, Rivera started “Ask Angy,” the first online undocumented youth advice column on Facebook. She also has a successful YouTube channel which has garnered tens of thousands of visitors. These both caught the attention of director Mikaela Shwer, who thought Rivera’s story would make for a compelling feature film, according to Rivera. 

After the screening, Rivera spoke to the audience about the tribulations she faced when she was a child and answered questions from the audience about the film. She described her escape from the violent environment of her home in Colombia. 

Rivera crossed the border via boat with her single mother and reached New York City, but her journey did not end there—she fought long and hard since stepping foot in America to have her voice heard as a public activist.

Samantha Avalos, a freshman journalism major, said that she found Rivera extremely inspirational.

“She had the courage to actually go out into the world and say she was undocumented, knowing the risks behind it,” Avalos said. “It must have been very frightening.”

According to the documentary, there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Rivera has been speaking out for these youth and said she is hoping to gather strength for the controversial community.

“[The undocumented lifestyle] forces you to be stronger because you have to find resources where there are none and create paths for yourself when there aren’t any,” Rivera said.

Rivera has joined countless rallies in Washington and New York and urges other undocumented people to “come out.” Rivera said her mother was very reluctant to let her daughter “come out” as an illegal immigrant, but she has since joined the movement. 

The activist also talked about how she enjoys writing for pleasure. She said that it seemed to be her way of coping with both the internal and external conflicts growing up.

“[I felt like] there was nobody at the other end,” Rivera said.

In November 2013, Rivera received a U visa, a nonimmigrant visa for victims of crimes, because she was sexually assaulted by her stepfather as a child. She said this didn’t solve all of her problems with educational financial aid and international travel.

“I thought I would be happy to get a U visa, but justice for me looks so much different, and I didn’t realize that until I got the visa,” Rivera said.

Rivera provides a symbol for the undocumented people of this generation. She said her goal is to remind the community of what one can accomplish, and she is a strong believer in the necessity of change.

“I think the purpose of the film was to start conversations that are different,” Rivera said, “and to have people think more about what justice looks like for the immigrant community.”

 

Correction, Sept. 24: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that around 30, not 60, attended the screening.