California has appointed an attorney who came to the U.S. illegally as a teenager to a state advisory board. The Washington Post and other news outlets are saying the appointment of Lizbeth Mateo to the California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee (Cal-Soap) is a first, but the Sacramento Bee says that’s not quite accurate:
The Senate announced that the appointment was a first, but that wasn’t entirely true…
Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 named Jorge Reyes Salinas, an undocumented immigrant enrolled in the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, to the California State University Board of Trustees as a student trustee. Dan Reeves, chief-of-staff to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Friday the appointment was historic because Mateo is not protected under DACA.
So she’s the first person to be appointed to a board like this who is not protected under DACA. She tweeted her thanks to Kevin de Leόn (pictured above) Wednesday:
Thank you Sen. @kdeleon for appointing me to the CalSOAP Advisory Committee. I look forward to working w/ the rest of the committee & the Student Aid Commission in such important task – increase the accessibility of postsecondary education opportunities for low-income students.
— Lizbeth Mateo, Esq. (@LizbethMateo) March 15, 2018
California has a law that says you must be a citizen to hold statewide office, however, that law does not apply to advisory boards like Cal-Soap, which is aimed at providing opportunities for low-income students to attend college. Because she arrived in the U.S. as a teen, Mateo might have been eligible for DACA. However, her prior activism seems to have created a problem for her:
Mateo has been in the public eye as an advocate for Dreamers for several years. She made headlines in 2013 when she traveled to Mexico with other young undocumented activists and returned to the United States. She said the Obama administration later denied her application for the DACA program, which allows qualifying young people brought to the country illegally as children to temporarily reside without the fear of deportation, as a result of the trip.
The question now is whether Mateo’s high profile as an undocumented immigrant will lead to her deportation. ICE has said it remains focused on pursuing people with criminal convictions. However, a war of words has escalated since Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced an ICE sweep in advance last month. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump have both condemned Mayor Schaaf. Trump also criticized Gov. Jerry Brown, who has, in turn, accused the Attorney General of creating a “reign of terror” in his state.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that California intended the appointment of Mateo as, at least in part, a middle-finger to the Trump administration. I suspect the inherent risk of deportation is something Mateo, a longtime activist, has already considered. Becoming a target of the Trump administration’s wrath is probably a great resume-builder in California these days. Meanwhile, ICE will likely remain focused primarily on people committing crimes. But the DOJ should take a hard look at Mayor Schaaf’s interference with federal law enforcement. That may be the next battle in this war.