Today I was honored to stand with the youth of We are One New York as we held a lobby day at part of NY Moral Mondays with the Labor-Religion Coalition for the DREAM Act. Many youth from around our State came today to lobby, to stand and be counted, to say in public, “I am undocumented,” and to tell their story without fear. These youth are an inspiration. They are our future. Below are my comments at the press conference held in the State Capital Building today.
Good afternoon. My name is Reverend Shannan Vance-Ocampo, I am an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and am here today on this Moral Monday to speak in favor of the NY DREAM ACT and that it is included in the NY State Budget without exception for the fiscal year 2016.
I come today to offer this testimony both as a person of faith and also as the spouse of an immigrant. My husband, Juan Gabriel Ocampo Valle of Colombia is here with me today along with our daughter.
I am proud to be married to an immigrant.
Those who come to this country to live are no different from those of us like myself whose family history goes back generations. People come to this country in search of a new future. Oftentimes the reasons they make the difficult journey to be in the United States is a result of war, environmental degradation, or economic instability. We have a role and a responsibility here in the Global North in the reasons some leave their countries of origin to come here. I can tell you that those who come as immigrants to this country do not make the decision lightly and it is not without deep personal consequence. Living in a new place, adapting to a new culture are things that are difficult and exact a cost. It is doubly heartbreaking for parents to come to the United States with dreams for their children to find out that they are then cut off from the access they deserve to educational opportunities.
It is unjust for children who have now grown into young adults, having lived in this country their entire lives to find out that their “welcome” only extends so far and they are cut off from all of the opportunities that higher education would afford them.
It is reckless to stifle to the innovation, expertise and global acumen that these young people bring to this country.
Why is my daughter, a child of an immigrant, who will have all of the opportunities offered to her in six years when she wants to go to college so different from another child whose parents are also immigrants? Why is she more deserving?
We have a legalized system of racial and economic discrimination set in place in our State and this cannot stand. As people of faith we say that this is immoral.
We must demand that the NY DREAM Act is fully funded and placed into our budget priorities as a State without delay.
It is a bedrock principal of not just my faith tradition, but of many that the immigrant should not only be offered a welcome—but should be honored. In the Hebrew Scriptures Hannah gives birth to Samuel, and travels with him to a distant land to present him at the Temple in hopes that he will have a better life. She sees her child as a blessing from God and in an act of thanksgiving offers him to God. Like so many parents Hannah sacrifices all that she has wanted and dreamed for so that her child’s future might be better. We are reminded in the ancient scriptures that we are to love and welcome the foreigner because we were once foreigners in the land, in need of care and of help. As Christians we know that Jesus always served in lands and with groups of people that were cut off from opportunity, leadership or economic help. Indeed after the Resurrection Jesus appears to “strangers” in a community, to women and to those who are seen as the most unlikely ones for him to walk with. Power and privilege in our biblical text is the opposite from our first world, capitalistic “values”. Power and privilege in our biblical texts is always primarily for those who have been left out, ignored or asked to hide in the shadows by those who seek power.
It is unacceptable and offensive to those who claim a faith whose foundation is built on a Child whose parents were immigrants seeking a better future, who were undocumented, who had to depend on the hospitality of others for their future that we would turn our back on and ignore the immigrants in our midst and their needs—especially immigrant children.
We are here today to say to the Governor and those in our State Legislature: We are watching you. We are paying attention. We will hold you accountable for your actions. We expect the DREAM Act to pass this year.
Black lives matter.
Brown lives matter.
Immigrant lives matter.
Our children and youth’s lives matter.
Pass the NY Dream Act.