Donald Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight at 9pm EST and DREAMers will be there in full force. It's been a tough year for DACA recipients and the future of the nearly 800,000 young people hangs in the balance.
DACA recipient, and tech entrepreneur, Elizabeth Vilchis, Is heading to the State Of The Union address as a guest of Senator Cory Booker to be the face, and hope, of DREAMers everywhere.
“Liz encapsulates everything that is right about this country. She’s bright, hardworking, and is making a positive impact on her community each and every day,” Booker said. “Sending her back to a country she barely knows is cruel, heartless, and unjust. It’s simply not who we are as Americans. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands of young people just like Liz across New Jersey and this country. Their lives have been thrown into chaos and uncertainty by President Trump’s decision to end DACA. I hope when he looks out into the crowd, he’ll see the faces of Liz and others like her, and think about these Americans as their fate is debated in the weeks ahead.”
Latina caught up with the 29-year-old powerhouse as she was traveling to Washington for this prime time event.
How do you feel attending such a big, political event?
"I'm really excited, because it's important to highlight the urgecy of our situation. The fact that Congress got the extension keeps pushing this issue to the back burner without offering real solutions. I'm here to offer a face; it's crucial to remind them about who we are and what we need."
Why don't you think there hasn't been a resolution when 80% of Americans support DACA?
Americans want this issue addressed, but I feel like we DREAMers are being used as tokens to push through conservative immigration agendas. We're people, we shouldn't be used as tools.
What would you like to see addressed?
I'd like to see a pathway to citizenship that also protects our families. My family, like many, is of mixed status. My brothers are citizens, my parents undocumented. I have DACA. We all contribute fully to our economy, we should have protection. For 22 years, my family has been afraid. It's not a good thing to watch your parents afraid to leave the house. It's not healthy for kids. It's not humane.
What do you think people get wrong about DACA?
That we are here to do harm or steal people's jobs. I am a tech entrepreneur. I employ 900 part-time workers. I create companies and I train individuals so they can get jobs in tech, which is the future of our work force. I just want to contribute to my country and help my community. I created LatinoTech, a group of over 1000 tech professionals that has raised over 8 million dollars in venture capital to create and grow programs. I'm giving people access to to tech and the ability to gain entry to the workplace. I'm giving jobs, not taking jobs.
What's been the hardest part of your journey?
As a woman, as a Latina, and an a DREAMer it's all been three times as hard to achieve my dreams. When I was growing up, as a Latina, people kept telling me I couldn't study engineering or excel in math or tech. As only one of five women in my graduating class, people doubted my skills and capabilities. Throw in fact that I'm undocumented, and the misconceptions about me were endless.Then I turn on the news, and people are attacking my community. Sometimes, I honestly cry. When I first started telliing my story of being undcoumented, I was scared to come out of the shadows. But I think of all the young people I'm helping. When I was young, I didn't have anyone like me to look up to. I think of them, and then all the trauma and struggle is worth it.
A congressman suggested ICE should attend the address and arrest DREAMers, are you scared?
I honestly don't know what to expect. I'm very grateful for allies like Corey Booker and others. This situation has been so hostile, but I'm not backing down. Someone has to stand up. This intimidation shouldn't be allowed. I'm gonna take it all as it comes and will do my best to represent my fellow DREAMers, and make my family and community proud.