Will Obama admin deny DACA to undocumented law school grad whose activism made history?

As immigrant rights leader Lizbeth Mateo studies for bar exam, law faculty urge DHS to grant protection

Media advisory for: Wed., June 29, 11:00 AM

Contact: Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, Pangea Legal Services, 415-635-4931

Mateo played major role in winning DACA, drivers' licenses, and DAPA through the "Bring them home" campaign

What: News conference calling upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to Lizbeth Mateo, an immigrant rights activist who graduated from Santa Clara University Law School earlier this month and is currently studying for the California Bar Exam. DHS officials have issued Lizbeth a tentative denial based on a brief absence from the US in 2013, despite their clear discretion to approve DACA in such cases. Her appeal is due this Wednesday.

Despite last week's Supreme Court "tie" freezing new deportation relief programs, the original DACA program remains in full effect. 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. Concerns about DHS retaliation against an activist in Chicago who was denied a DACA renewal sparked a lawsuit last month. 

Lizbeth's activism has helped break barriers and expose the injustices that millions of families divided by harsh immigration policies have suffered. Her decade-long activism for immigrant rights 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 over 700,000 undocumented Californians to become licensed drivers. 

When: 11:00 AM, Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where: In front of Heafey Law Library, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053

Who: Speakers to include:

  • Lizbeth Mateo 
  • Professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram, immigration expert
  • Professor Michelle Oberman
  • Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, Pangea Legal Service - Lizbeth's attorney, who is himself a DACA recipient

BackgroundLizbeth 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. During her visit, she escaped an assault by the police, who yelled at her and called her a foreigner. Her participation in the Dream 9 highlighted the hidden realities that so many immigrants face.

After her release, Lizbeth started law school at Santa Clara University. She graduated last month with several awards and honors and is preparing to take the California bar exam in July.  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. 

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