Dreamers Influence Higher Ed Access and Professional Credential Policies

As Congress continues on its path of inaction around Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation, Dreamers unabashedly move forward in promoting an inclusive agenda for undocumented immigrants. Through these efforts, activists seek to obtain for undocumented immigrants access to educational opportunities and professional accreditation.

In at least a couple of examples, the advocacy derives significant dividends.

In California, where some 60,000 undocumented students attend community colleges in the state, according to a report in The Washington Post, attorney and immigration rights advocate Lizbeth Mateo works to improve college access to low-income residents. Beginning her secondary education at one of the state’s community colleges, Mateo’s empathy extends to the community she serves as she also holds undocumented status.

But besides her background, which includes social media hashtags with bullhorn hashtags undocumented and unafraid, Mateo’s student outreach also carries state sanction. Appointed to the California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee by California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, Mateo represents the latest example of the state’s resistance to Trump Administration policies.

Mateo, according to a statement from de Leon, “is a courageous, determined and intelligent young woman who at great risk has dedicated herself to fight for those seeking their rightful place in this country. The 33-year-old Oaxaca, Mexico-born woman whose parents brought her to Los Angeles at the age of 14, “embodies California values and the American dream.”

“While undocumented students have become more visible in our state, they remain underrepresented in places where decisions that affect them are being made,” Mateo says. “I hope to be able to draw from my own experiences as an undocumented, first generation college graduate, and from experiences of students like myself who are currently navigating or will soon navigate the higher education system.”

Mateo’s activism goes back more than 10 years to her days as a student at university where she emerged as a leading advocate for the passage of the Dream Act. Mateo received 2 denials for DACA applications due to brief visits to Mexico when she participated in the “Bring Them Home” campaign designed “to see how border agents would react when they tried to reenter the United States.”

While a significant portion of California lawmakers appear on board with Mateo’s activism efforts, signals from civic leaders in other states also reflect and openness to undocumented individuals.

Undocumented law school grad Denia Perez, who entered the U.S. from Mexico with her parents before turning 1-year-old, seeks permission to practice in the state of Connecticut. The state bar rules committee endorses the request to allow undocumented immigrants to gain state law licenses. If judges approve the proposal, Connecticut joins the states of New York, California, Florida and New Jersey in giving Dreamers permission to practice law, according to a published report.