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Lizbeth Mateo is the first undocumented immigrant appointed to a state post.

Lizbeth Mateo is the first undocumented immigrant appointed to a state post.


California has become the first state to appoint an undocumented immigrant to a statewide post. Lizbeth Mateo, a 33-year-old attorney and immigrant rights activist was appointed by Senate President Kevin de Leon on Wednesday to serve on the California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee. She'll be fighting for low-income and undocumented California students.

The decision comes just two days after Trump's first visit to California since taking office.

While in California, Trump criticized the state's sanctuary cities on Twitter, calling them "unconstitutional."

The move to appoint Mateo could be seen as a an act of defiance to the Trump administration which as cracked down on illegal immigration since Trump was sworn into office last year.

"While Donald Trump fixates on walls, California will continue to concentrate on opportunities," de León said in a news release. "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."

Who is Lizbeth Mateo?

Mateo came to the United States with her parents from Oaxaca, Mexico at the age of 14. As a student at Venice High School she learned to speak English and eventually became the first in her family to graduate college, earning a B.A. from California State University, according to her legal website.

In 2016 she graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law and last year passed the California bar exam. In 2014, California became the first state to allow undocumented immigrants to practice law.

Mateo took time to thank de León on Twitter for appointing her to the committee and said she looks forward to helping students.

She went toe-to-toe over the Dream Act with John McCain in 2010.

Mateo has a long history of fighting for immigrant rights and in 2010 risked deportation in an effort to demand the passing of the Dream Act. Mateo and three others were arrested for staging a sit-in in the office of Arizona Senator John McCain.

It was the first time students risked deportation to push Congress to act on a bill that would benefit undocumented immigrant youth.

"I have been organizing for years, and a lot of my friends have become frustrated and lost hope," Mateo who was 25 at the time told The New York Times. "We don't have any more time to be waiting. I really believe this year we can make it happen."

Three years later she became part of a group known as the "Dream 9" after she returned to Mexico and risked being locked out the the United States in an effort to bring back eight other immigration activists.

Lizbeth Mateo has received pushback from critics.

Some in the California legal community have been critical of her practicing California law as an undocumented immigrant. "You're taking the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, while you are simultaneously breaking those laws, John C. Eastman, a constitutional law expert and former dean of Orange California's Chapman University law school said.

Eastman told The New York Times that an an undocumented lawyer, Mateo is putting her clients that are in the U.S. under DACA at a greater risk. California currently has the most Dreamers.

That's a risk that Mateo is well aware of, but also one that she's determined to overcome in her mission. “When you’re trying to keep DACA, it’s not enough to have faith and be hopeful,” she told Politico. “One has to come out of the shadows and fight.”

Sources: The Sacramento Bee
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