USCIS: Grant Lizbeth Mateo DACA!

Academic, community leaders speak out

What: News conference to urge the Obama administration to grant DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to immigrant rights activist Lizbeth Mateo.  Lizbeth grew up in Los Angeles as has played a pivotal role in the fight for immigrant rights over the last decade. Ironically, the Obama administration is seeking to deny her some of the very protections she helped to create, but Mateo and supporters are determined not to be intimidated or silenced.

Department of Homeland Security officials recently issued Lizbeth a second tentative denial of DACA based on a brief absence from the US in 2013, despite their clear discretion. Mateo's attorney, Luis Angel Reyes Savalza of San Francisco-based Pangea Legal Services, who is himself a recipient of DACA, filed an appeal Tuesday. Meanwhile, last week, in a similar case, an immigrant youth leader in Chicago won DACA after suing the federal government for retaliation. 

A petition in support of Lizbeth has picked up 2,200 signatures in just over a week,  over 200 academic professionals and attorneys have signed a letter asking USCIS to exercise discretion, and Members of Congress have written letters of support for Lizbeth. 

When: 12:00 PM, Monday, October 17

Where: UCLA Downtown Labor Center, 675 S Park View St, Los Angeles

Who: Speakers include

  • Lizbeth Mateo
  • Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center
  • Yolozee Odilia Romero Xhogosh, Vice General Coordinator Frente Indgena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB) 
  • Chris Newman, Legal Director, National Day Labor Organizing Network 

Media visuals: supporters will host a national call-in day to DHS - images of activists making phone calls

Lizbeth's activism has helped break barriers and expose the injustices that millions of families divided by harsh immigration policies have suffered. Her activism  was central to the implementation of DACA in 2012. In July 2013, she briefly traveled to Mexico to visit her ailing grandfather. Two weeks later, she returned to the U.S. with eight other immigrant youth leaders, together known as the "Dream 9" or the "bring them home" campaign. In a historic and ground-breaking action, the group turned themselves in to border patrol and were later freed. The "bring them home" campaign was a catalyst for DAPA. Later that year, Lizbeth entered law school at Santa Clara University. She then played a crucial role in securing the passage of California's AB 60, which has allowed nearly 800,000 undocumented Californians to become licensed drivers. 

Additional background: Lizbeth moved to the United States with her family when she was 14 years old and grew up in the Los Angeles area. The first in her family to graduate high school and attend college, Lizbeth became involved in the immigrant youth movement in 2003. She helped lead the fight for the federal Dream Act, organizing thousands of undocumented immigrant youth, advocating with legislators, and co-founding the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. 

Lizbeth's visit to Mexico came after both of her paternal grandparents had died. Like millions of immigrants, she endured the heartbreaking experience of missing her grandparents' funerals. She was determined to see her other loved ones before they passed away as well. Lizbeth's visit to Mexico was also part of the first transnational campaign to reunite deported immigrant youth and families with their loved ones in the US.

Lizbeth graduated from Santa Clara University in May with several awards and honors and returned to Los Angeles. She will take the California Bar exam in February [Clarification].  While US Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS), a branch of DHS, has cited Lizbeth's 13-day visit to Mexico as the reason for intending to deny her DACA, the fact is the agency has used its discretion to approve many cases involving a departure or other issues.  With DACA, Lizbeth would be able to more fully make use of her law degree and serve the community. 

Ensuring DACA's most equitable implementation is an important part of the fight for immigrant rights, hand-in-hand with calls for the President to halt deportations entirely.