An annual conference is looking to show immigrant youth and their families in New York City that no matter their immigration status — they have a voice and future.
The Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference is set to take place on April 23 at the CUNY School of Law, located at 2 Court Square in Long Island City.
The all-day conference — which is in its third year in New York City — aims to offer resources and tools to the youth and their families to allow them to be empowered and organize within their individual communities.
“It’s a great place, great community,” said Angy Rivera, one of the conference’s organizers and also formerly undocumented for 19 years. “These conferences and spaces for undocumented student in particular don’t really exist that much.”
During the conference, participants will be able to meet with high school and college students, community organizers, lawyers and professional development leaders. The event will include workshops for undocumented youth to discuss the college process — including how to pay for college — and also alternatives to college.
The conference will also offer participants creative ideas on how they can come together with their communities through academic spaces or on the street.
“Some of them don’t know that these exist and they have a lot of thoughts and fear that they are alone,” Rivera said.
Each year the conference has a theme, which most classes and discussions focus on through the day. For example, last year’s theme was “Redefining Success” and focus was put on what success looks like for undocumented and immigrant students.
This years theme is “Rooted In Liberation” through which organizers and volunteers will discuss the history of migration, what caused people to migrate, and also focus on the history of migration polices and anti-immigrant laws.
Through incorporating the theme, the conference will also analyze the history of organizing and go through how the immigrant community as a whole has become a part of the legacy of community work.
“When we think about the changes that have happened now, we think these things just popped out of nowhere,” Rivera said. “The reality is it has been years of community organizing.”
Organizers, the majority who are volunteers, are also currently fundraising for the expenses of the conference. The donations will go to various funds of the conference including food, MetroCards for students, and more.
Rivera added that although the conference is geared towards the immigrant and undocumented youth, organizers hope families and educators can also attend.
And as for the youth looking to attend, Rivera said it will serve as a great space for them to feel like they belong and also to get to know there is a community that supports them and is there to help.
“It would be amazing for parents to come and also find their voices,” she said. “I definitely hope that young people realize that there is a community out here that supports them and is fighting with them.”