My Story

By Julia Ramirez
Julia Ramirez and Luis Yumbla

“License and registration please.” I had been driving for almost a year and it was finally happening. I was being pulled over. My taillight needed to be replaced, the police officer informed me, and I needed to hand over my license and registration. I immediately panicked. My hands began to shake and my heart raced. I looked in the glove compartment, but I didn’t even know what the registration looked like. I pulled out a handful of papers, and with the help of the officer, found the registration. The police officer proceeded to ask me a series of questions and I suddenly burst to tears.  I asked him if I was going to have my car towed, and when my uncle, the owner of the car, could pick it up. The police officer calmed me down and continued to ask for my driver’s license and then I remembered. I am a United States citizen and I have my driver’s license. I had been driving with a license for almost a year. How had I forgotten?  In a very calm and stern voice the police officer assured me that I would not have my car towed. I would just need to fix the taillight and pay my ticket. He wished me a good day and drove away. I sat in my car wiped away my tears, and laughed.
My parents are immigrants. They stepped onto American soil in the early spring of 1995. My mother was sixteen years old and three months pregnant. My father, a young man full of dreams and determination. They set out on the long journey to cross the border in search of a better life and future for their new family. A journey that was so long and treacherous they never returned to Mexico.
Growing up, I always heard stories about their journey across the border, but never fully understood their significance. I considered my parents’ story as something normal, traditional even. I thought everyone had a story. It seemed like all the adults in my family had them, different versions of the same journey. It never occurred to me that this journey would have such profound effects on my family. It never occurred to me that twenty years later, until this very day, my parents would remain undocumented. That my parents would be deprived of rights and freedoms I would possess. Rights and freedoms they had sought out for me and which have been granted to me because they decided to cross the border to make me a United States citizen. I am privileged. I am lucky to have such brave and selfless parents.  But my parents are not so lucky. My parents are shamed and ridiculed every day. They are denied these rights and freedoms despite the fact that they pay their taxes and have never committed a crime. They are denied social security numbers, pensions, financial aid, healthcare, and a simple driver’s license. These documents and papers make a world of a difference in a family of immigrants. They create a world of fear and anguish, and if families are lucky enough to someday attain immigration relief, a world of happiness and opportunity.
My parents have always driven without a driver’s license. They’ve always had jobs that required them to drive to and from work and take two kids to school. Driving was a necessity; our schools and their jobs were not a walking distance away. My parents took the risk of getting pulled over every day. The sight of a police officer walking towards our car always sent shivers running down my back, and the sight of my father’s worried face always sent me into a panic. My brother and I were constantly being told to sit down, put our seatbelts on and not be afraid if the police officer came and took away our car. But we were always afraid. Afraid that on any given day we could be pulled over on our way to school or to a simple family party. Afraid that on any given week we would have to accompany our parents to court when they paid their fines.
Our fears always became a reality. We were pulled over once on our way to school and had to walk the remaining two miles, once on my brother’s fourteenth birthday after a dinner celebration, and once when my dad was on his way to visit his brother in the hospital. We already knew the routine. Take all the things you will need out of the car and quietly step out. Walk towards either mom or dad and wait until they gave directions to walk to our destination. Growing up, the sight of a police car always put me on high alert and panic. A police officer meant the possibility of having our car taken away and heavy fines. I never saw police officers as protectors or “the good guys.”  To me police officers were people who could not only take my car away, but also my parents.
The day I got pulled over, my mind went back to those memories, to the only memories I had of a police officer. My mind automatically went into a panic and forgot the fact that unlike my parents, I had a driver’s license. I laughed when the officer wished me a good day and left. I could not believe I only had to pay a ticket and get my tail light fixed. It was too easy. I was almost happy. I knew this was wrong, I knew it was not fair. Why did my parents get treated so differently than I in the same situation? Because of a piece of paper that made them legal? No, this was not fair at all. But getting enraged about it would make no difference. I could not do anything about it. Right? There was nothing I could do for my parents when they were being pulled over. There was nothing I could do for them and their immigration status to make any of their troubles dissolve. All I could do was continue going to school, doing my best and waiting until I had a degree to help my parents financially. There was no other way to help.
    I did not find a way to help until I began to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice. There I joined the John Jay Dreamers club and heard stories of students like me. Students who also had immigrant parents and sought ways to help them in any way they could. It was in this club that I first heard an undocumented student talk about his experience across the border and what it meant to him. I finally understood the meaning these stories had. In my junior year, I received the CUNY Becas Scholarship. I was required to attend a three-day retreat with the other recipients. It was one of the best weekends of my life and changed my view on immigration entirely.  Almost all of the scholarship recipients were undocumented, and had stories just like the ones of my parents. All of them were great people, with long lists of accomplishments and were somehow balancing school and full time jobs. But they didn’t stop there; every one of the students had been an activist in the Mexican community. They were all undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic.

                This group of amazing students along with my immigrant family inspired me to look for answers and ways to help my community, to help my people. I have since decided to pursue law and become an immigration attorney. My dream is to help people like the student scholarship recipients and my parents. I am currently working as a Case Manager to promote DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in Port Chester and throughout Westchester County with the Hudson Valley Community Coalition. I am determined to fight for my people and do everything in my power to help and support all immigrants living in the shadows. I am here to say you are not alone. I am here to say I am fighting with you. I am here to offer my help and support.


Pope Francis' visit to New York City

Pope Francis will visit New York City on September 25, 2015. As Wendy Feliz writes in the Immigration Impact blog, "If political history cannot reshape the enforcement-first immigration solutions being offered by presidential candidates, perhaps theological wisdom delivered by one of the most compassionate and admired Popes in recent history can transform the conversation, and remind us that treating all people with compassion should be the ultimate outcome of immigration reform." 

In addition: 

16-22 DE SEPTIEMBRE, CAMINATA DE LA ESPERANZA: Un grupo de madres de soñadores "dreamers" alistan una caminata de 100 millas para llamar la atención del gobierno y del Congreso, y para pedirle al Papa Francisco, en la víspera de su visita a la Casa Blanca, que ruegue al Presidente Barack Obama y al Congreso por una reforma migratoria comprensiva.

“Y que se convierta en la voz de todos nosotros, los 11 millones de inmigrantes "indocumentados" de Estados Unidos. Sea parte de este grito, de este clamor, de esta caminata. QUE SE ESCUCHEN NUESTRAS VOCES!


Find out if you are eligible for Administrative Relief

A Texas judge issued an injunction to delay the application process and deportation relief announced by President Obama last November. (Expanded DACA, and DAPA.) But the current DACA program, first announced in 2012, is still in effect. Attend one of our Mobile Immigration Clinics to apply for the original DACA program, or renew your application, or find out if you will be eligible to apply for DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability) or Expanded DACA when the programs begin.

Have US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident children;
Entered US before January 1, 2010;
Physically present and no lawful status on November 20, 2014;
Not ineligible because of criminal convictions or immigration violations.

Expanded DACA:
Entered US before turning 16 years old;
Entered US before January 1, 2010;
Physically present and no lawful status on November 20, 2014;
Have HS or GED diploma or currently enrolled in school;
At least 15 years old;
Not ineligible because of criminal convictions or immigration violations.

Original DACA (first time applicants, also can renew your DACA status.)
  • Born on/after June 15, 1981 and are at least 15 years old; 
  • Came to the U.S. before June 15, 2007 and before turning 16 years old; 
  • Have a High School or GED diploma or are currently enrolled in school; 
  • No felony, significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanor convictions


The 2015 Immigrant Equality Agenda

By Kevin Tejada 


With a New Year just beginning, immigration activists are not winding down their efforts to advocate for the immigration reforms necessary in our country.  On Monday January 5th, members of the New York Immigration coalition, their allies which included the Hudson Valley Community Coalition, Neighbors Link, Hispanic Resource Center, Cabrini Immigrant Services and the Westchester Hispanic Coalition, with the support of local lawmakers introduced the Immigrant Equality Agenda.  Coalition members made their case at the Westchester Hispanic Coalition, located in White Plains.
The hopes of this year’s immigrant equality agenda include: ensuring that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have the resources and services available to apply for administrative relief, supporting the educational and health needs unaccompanied children who fled violence in Central America, to combat work place abuses and improve wages and working conditions for the hundreds of dairy farm workers in New York State. The passage of the New York State Dream Act, tops the list of goals in the agenda.
News 12 Westchester and Verizon FiOS1 News were present at the event.  After the press conference was over, I got the chance to speak with the News 12 reporter. This gave me the opportunity to talk about why I am so passionate about the issues discussed during the conference, particularly the passage of the Dream Act.  The news reporter asked me if I myself am an undocumented college student. I am not.  And although it was a fair thing to ask, the question really struck me by surprise and it made me think about how the battle to pass the Dream Act and other pro-immigrant legislation should not be exclusive to the undocumented immigrants that would benefit from them. Immigration policy affects all aspects of society, thus it affects all of us. Regardless of status, immigrants have always played a central role in the life and growth of our nation. Immigrants contribute $10 billion a year to this country's economic growth. I do not have to be undocumented to advocate for the rights of immigrants. I am a strong believer and supporter of the Dream Act and I consider myself part of the Dreamer movement. Dreamers as the name of their movement suggests are students just like me who have dreams and aspirations. I am a Dreamer.
I am in full support of the passage of the Dream Act because I think it is outrageous that some of my peers who have the same potential as me to succeed in college, do not have the opportunity to keep pursuing their dreams. Our government invests in these students through our public system but why stop after they graduate from high school? Why not continue to support these students through college? We are cutting these students’ wings and we can’t continue to do that. The United States is known for being the land of dreams but for a lot of dreamers these dreams are far from possible. It is because of this that the passage of the Dream Act is necessary in our country.  In the past few years Dreamers have been more influential than they have been visible, but my hope for 2015 is that we become both more influential and visible with the passage of the Dream Act.

Take Action! Email us at to:
*Join the NYS Dream Act Coalition;
*Be added to the HVCC listserv to get notice of upcoming actions, workshops and community news;
*Schedule a DACA/DAPA Informational Workshop in your community;
*Take Part in Albany Day, NYIC’s Immigrant Day of Action on March 3;
*Join or learn more about UNIR, the Upstate Network for Immigrant Rights; or
*Volunteer with Us


New USCIS Office in Newburgh

By Kevin Tejada

For residents of the Hudson Valley area needing the U.S. Citizenship and immigration services meant having to travel all the way to New York City or Albany. This will no longer have to be the case. The Newburgh Armory Unity Center is pleased to announce the opening of a brand new USCIS Office in our area, which is the only one between New York City and Albany. This new USCIS Office will provide its services to the local immigrant community of the Mid-Hudson region.
Because the only two closest USCIS Offices were located in New York City and Albany, in the past people in need of USCIS would spend a lot of time and money to travel to either one of this two offices. Obtaining the services provided by USCIS is costly and the new office in Newburgh would reduce the cost of loss wages and traveling expenses. The local immigrant community will no longer have to make to spend hundreds of dollars on repeated trips to New York City. The new USCIS office will be accessible to New York residents of Dutchess, Ulster, and Orange, Sullivan, Putnam and Rockland counties.
USCIS agents will provide customer service assistance with:
·         Forms (Petitions/Applications)
·         Case Status Inquiries
·         Reschedule Requests
·         Green Card Production Inquiries
·         ELIS Issues
·         Adit Stamps
·         Emergency Advance Paroles
·         General Immigration Information
Getting fingerprinted is a major step in becoming a U.S. citizen. Fingerprinting services will be provided starting Friday, August 29th.
For starters, the USCIS mobile office at the Newburgh Armory will be open two Fridays a month from 8am – 4pm. The Newburgh Armory Unity Center is located in 321 S William St, Newburgh, NY 12550. Days of operation for the remainder of the year are:
August 15, 2014                                October 24, 2014
August 29, 2014                                November 7, 2014
September 12, 2014                         November 21, 2014
September 26, 2014                         December 5, 2014
October 10, 2014                              December 19, 2014


DACA Renewals

By Kevin Tejada

Since being enacted in 2012 by President Obama, DACA has allowed nearly 600,000 DREAMers who met various conditions to get temporary work permits and two-year deportation relief. Those who applied and qualified in 2012 have been able to get work permits and driver's licenses. But it has been two years already and those who qualified for DACA must renew their applications. DACA must be renewed every two years.  When it comes to immigration issues nothing is ever too simple and of course you can't just simply renew after two years, there is a specific time frame that those who need to renew must follow. Individuals must file renewal requests 120-150 days before their current period of deferred action expires. DACA must be renewed every two years; it is not a permanent program.
                The renewal process begins by filing the new version of Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. There is a filing and biometrics (fingerprints and photo) fee associated with Form I-765 totaling $465. As with an initial request, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will conduct a background check when processing DACA renewals.
Those who wish to request a DACA renewal must continue to meet the initial criteria ( and these additional guidelines:
·         Did not depart the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
·         Have continuously resided in the United States since they submitted their most recent DACA request that was approved; and
·         Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
And because not everyone applied and qualified for DACA at the same time, not everyone applies for a renewal at the same time. The time to request a renewal is different for each individual. For the first people that qualified for DACA two years ago it is time for them to renew now, but 2012 was not the only year you could apply for DACA. Individuals who have yet to benefit from DACA and who qualify can apply for the first time at any moment.  If the request for DACA is approved the individual will benefit from a two-year deportation relief and work authorization program.

The Hudson Valley Community Coalition is running the HVCC Mobile Immigration Legal Clinic in Ossining, N.Y. at St. Ann's Church, every Wednesday from 5pm to 7pm. Sister Kelly Carpenter will be there to help with DACA renewals or first time applications. The attorney services are free but the person applying for a DACA renewal must be ready to pay the USCIS filing fees (which can total $465).  The Mobile Immigration Clinic also runs in Middletown, NY at Literacy Orange on the second Saturday of each month, in Peekskill at Hudson River Health Care's Main Street office, on August 14 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, and in Yonkers at the VIVE School by appointment on Wednesdays from 9 am to 3 pm.  



DREAMers and supporters from all over the Hudson Valley come together in Ossining to say with one voice New York State DREAM ACT for ALL. WE WILL MARCH, WE WILL FIGHT for opportunity for our future.