This Undocumented Immigrant Is Making History With This Job in the California Government

Lead Photo: Creative Commons "The flag of California, flying at San Francisco City Hall, California" by Makaristos is in the public domain
Creative Commons "The flag of California, flying at San Francisco City Hall, California" by Makaristos is in the public domain
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In the same week that President Donald Trump headed to California to look at prototypes of the border wall that he eventually wants to use to keep out immigrants, the West Coast state made a strong statement about where it stands when it comes to the the undocumented community. For the first time ever, California has appointed an undocumented immigrant to a statewide post. On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee appointed 33-year-old Lizbeth Mateo, an attorney and activist, to an advisory committee (California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee) that looks for ways to make college accessible to low-income students in the state.

For Senate President pro tempore Kevin de León, the decision is one that directly challenges the Trump Administration. “While Donald Trump fixates on walls, California will continue to concentrate on opportunities,” he told The Sacramento Bee. “Ms. Mateo is a courageous, determined, and intelligent young woman who at great personal risk has dedicated herself to fight for those seeking their rightful place in this country.”

Born in Oaxaca, Lizbeth arrived in the United States at 14. In 2017, years after California allowed undocumented immigrants to practice law, she was sworn in to the state’s bar. But even before her legal degree, she’s pushed for protection of immigrants, including demanding for a DREAM Act.

With more than 72,000 undocumented students enrolled in California’s schools, Mateo could make a difference in the lives of many. “While undocumented students have become visible in our state, they remain underrepresented in places where decisions that affect them are being made,” Mateo said. “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.”

The same day of Mateo’s appointment, Trump criticized California for its sanctuary state status, that is California’s refusal to cooperate with immigration officials. Even though evidence doesn’t support his claims, Trump said that California’s decision puts “the entire nation at risk.”