‘I am a queer, Latino, Brazilian-born, Florida-raised, undocumented New Yorker.’

This post is part of an ongoing series of student reflections on equity, diversity, and inclusion in public service.

Lucas Lopes (MPA Candidate 2019)

I am a child of migration. I am a child of Russian and Italian great-grandparents who emigrated to Brazil in the 1930’s destined to manifest a new life for themselves. I am a queer, Latino, Brazilian-born, Florida-raised, undocumented New Yorker.

Receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status in 2012 allowed me to do more than just exist. Two years later, Florida passed a bill that allowed DACA recipients to qualify for in-state tuition. I worked fifty hours a week to pay my way and graduated with honors in two years and eight months from the University of Florida. My dream was to eventually move to New York City and attend graduate school at NYU.

I did everything I had to do to achieve that dream and arrived on NYU’s campus in the spring of 2017. I am a Master of Public Administration candidate, future law student, and firm believer that the America my children will grow up in will be better, more equitable, and more just than the America I grew up in. I believe this to be true because it will be my life’s work—and that of many others—to fight for women’s rights, racial justice, and a political agenda that puts compassion and dignity at the forefront.

We may be undocumented, but we are not illegal, and we are certainly not aliens. We are the ones that cook your food, care for your kids, stock your shelves, pick your vegetables, mow your lawn, and clean your house. We are also the ones who graduate in the top percentile of our classes, fund our own education, serve our communities, and fill the beautiful tapestry of American culture with color. True dignity, validation, and respect for our human race begins with showing up to ease the burdens of our neighbors.

In the 1940’s, E.B. White wrote about a battered willow tree outside his window in the Turtle Bay Gardens; how it symbolized “life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun.” As a Dreamer, this is the metaphor for my life; steadily reaching for the sun.

Lucas Lopes