Luz Maria Hernandez, Immigrant Rights Activist

My name is Luz Maria Hernandez. I am 75 years old.


My name is Luz Maria Hernandez. I am 75 years old. I am a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. It was my granddaughter who urged me to get involved in the immigration reform movement — and together, on September 12, we were arrested in Washington to demand Congress pass reform with a path to citizenship.

I was not afraid of facing arrest, because I face a much more real and desperate fear: missing out on the lives of my children. Although I’ve obtained my residency, my children have been waiting in Mexico for years to have their visas approved so that we might be reunited. Immigration reform is not about border security or jobs or “getting in a line” — it is about families who have been separated by deportations, or live each day dreading that, like me, they will be separated from their loved ones for years.

You have been a committed activist to the fight for immigration reform, and now I want to ask you to join us in shaping the next phase of the campaign by participating in a non-violent direct action training happening in your community. Together, our communities will make history for the rights and dignity of all immigrant families. Click here to join the below action. Send an RSVP email with your name, location, and the best number to reach you to my friend Grecia, a national field organizer.

Non-Violent Direct Action Training Saturday, October 26th, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm Seattle, WA

I will do whatever it takes to help those that suffer as my family has suffered, but I am only one person. That is why I am asking you to take action with me, to make a difference.

Stand with me.

Sí se puede,

Luz Maria Hernandez Wisconsinite

ProgressReport … One year anniv of DACA


One Year Out of the Shadow

The one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, “a presidential initiative that grants temporary legal presence to non-criminal undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as youths by their parents. The two-year program allows DACA recipients to apply for a social security number, to legally work in the United States, and to pay taxes. It also protects them from deportation. The program has attracted more than half a million applicants.

As of August, 430,236 undocumented youths have been approved.”

ThinkProgress immigration reporter Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, herself a beneficiary of the program, rounded up the stories of seven immigrants whose lives have been changed as a result of the program.

We’ll let her take it from here:

Before DACA, these individuals were largely excluded from pursuing permanent, professional employment in the United States. But since receiving their employment authorization cards, many recipients are able to match their skills and qualifications with careers that they never could have had without legal presence. They are able to travel more freely, with many states issuing driver’s licenses, ID cards, and other fundamental privileges previously denied. And they have increasingly become contributing members of society. These are the stories of seven DACA recipients who are already changing their lives, even as they live with the fear that the change may be temporary.

C.P., 28, was nine-years-old when her parents brought her from Mexico. When she was 12 years old, her mother was detained during a raid. “The trauma of having a family member sent away stays with you,” she says. Before DACA, she was worried that she would be separated from her two-year-old son and “felt so stuck.” But after becoming a DACA beneficiary, C.P. was excited to start working as a medical genetics technician. Her temporary legal presence has given her the ability to “pay more taxes” than she did as a low-wage “overworked, underpaid” worker who worked “nights, weekends, [and] holidays.” She now pays for private health insurance coverage for her family and she has been able to buy a car– two luxuries afforded by legalization that directly boost the economy.

Rafael Lopez Rafael Lopez

 Rafael Lopez, 24, was one year old when he was brought from Mexico. Until he was approved for DACA, Rafael did not have a paying job. Now he works as a paralegal at a law firm. “It just feels really good because now I have some money in my pockets…,” Rafael said. “For a short little while, I forgot how much I wanted some sort of a state ID. I just wanted to be able to drive and not worry about getting stopped.” He plans to become an immigration lawyer and looks to his boss who takes on pro-bono work, as his role model. Before DACA, “my dreams were never set in stone,” Rafael said. “It was always an ‘if’… but now I’m not afraid anymore. I feel confident. [DACA] makes me feel empowered. Things are not as bad and I have something to lean on and that’s my DACA.’”

Thelma Monarrez with her familyThelma Monarrez with her family

Thelma Monarrez, 25, was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was two-years-old. She works as a legal assistant where “having my own office was a dream come true.” Her legal presence provides her with the opportunity to volunteer at a battered woman’s program, which she previously could not do because she would not have passed a background check. “I can now drive without fear… and take family vacations which I’ve always wanted,” Thelma says. “Basically, my life is a little more ‘normal’…I feel like I do belong somewhere.” DACA has also provided Thelma with a chance to rent in apartment complexes without “having to put a huge deposit down because I have no social security number.” It also gives her a kind of stability that if she lost her job “I can easily look for another [one], which was not so easy before.”

Oscar [last name withheld], 23, was brought to the United States from China at the age of 13. He works at a Detroit-area restaurant and is looking forward to applying for an internship. He dreams of becoming an engineer and being able to “use my skill to help build America, legally.” Oscar says that the most positive thing that has come out of receiving DACA is an improvement in his mental health and an ability to pay taxes. With DACA, Oscar finds that “it’s a [relief] driving my car knowing that I have my [driver’s license] in my pocket.”

Blanca GamezBlanca Gamez

Blanca Gamez, 24, was brought to the country from Mexico when she was seven months old. Before DACA, she was volunteering as an immigration advocate. But after DACA, Blanca was able to become a tax-paying, salaried employee at a non-profit immigration advocacy organization. She hopes to become a lawyer one day. Blanca said that prior to becoming a DACA beneficiary, she was “in limbo over nine silly numbers.” But now that she can legally drive and pay taxes, Blanca feels thrilled to be “a contributing member of society.” Although Blanca has never been pulled over, she is happy that she will no longer have to drive “in fear.”

Maria SotomayorMaria Sotomayor

Maria Sotomayor, 21, was nine-years-old when her parents brought her from Ecuador. Before she became a DACA beneficiary, Maria worked at a pizza shop. But now she works as a DACA coordinator, helping others file their DACA paperwork within the greater Philadelphia area. Like Blanca, Maria finds that DACA has opened “a lot of doors for me” and even though she had an international license before, she no longer fears “being pulled over while driving” and no longer has to explain to her friends why she used to carry around a passport in lieu of a state ID.Yesenia Alaniz, 24, was one year old when her parents brought her from Mexico. She currently holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies, which inspired her passion to become a teacher. Because of DACA, she is now able to work at a retail store in the greater Las Vegas area to save up for a master’s degree in Education so that she can pursue that dream. She says that having the legal ability to drive has allowed her children to “participate in extracurricular activities,” but that being able to work has given her the freedom to “help my parents out financially.”

C.P., Oscar, Maria, and the rest of these DACA recipients have roots deeply embedded in society, and the impermanence of DACA’s two-year protected legal presence never strays far from their minds. Rafael and his family, for example, have a standing deportation order. While the Obama administration has stated that the DACA program was put into place as a way to shift its deportation focus on criminal immigrants, any one of these recipients are still at risk of deportation if the DACA program ends.

Beneficiaries can pay the $465 fee to re-apply for DACA before their employment authorization cards expire every two years, but the program is simply a stop-gap measure that provides an unsustainable long-term solution. What’s more, beneficiaries can only plan their futures in American in two-year chunks.

All of those interviewed believe a long-term, immigration reform solution is necessary, but none would accept a solution that only provides legalization for undocumented youths, such as the KIDs Act, proposed by House Republicans to grants legalization to a small subset of the undocumented population. That proposal would not provide a resolution for nine to ten million undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for the initiative.

The DACA program could very well be cut by the next president, relegating the nearly half a million undocumented immigrants back to living in a shadow economy. “I don’t want to lose the ability to work,” said Blanca. “That would be the scariest thought and one of the most horrific things that anyone can take away from me.”

BOTTOM LINE: The DACA program has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, but it’s only a stopgap measure and could even be rescinded by a future president. It’s time for the House of Representatives to pass immigration reform with a pathway to earned citizenship for DREAMers and the rest of the estimated 11 MILLION undocumented alike.

You can also check out this video of an event our Center for American Progress colleagues held on this topic today. They discussed the findings from an upcoming report on the progress made so far and the work that remains to be done

West Wing Week : 5/10/13 “I Dare You to Do Better” – YouTube

This week, the President made his fourth trip to Mexico, continued on to Costa Rica, spoke to the graduating class of 2013 at the Ohio State University, hosted the new President of South Korea, discussed hurricane preparedness, and kicked off a series of Jobs, Skills and Opportunity tours in the Lone Star State.

Julie Rodriguez, The White House

The White HouseBuenas Tardes,

Last week, the President embarked on his sixth trip to Latin America, traveling to both Mexico and Costa Rica. This trip was an important opportunity to reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America. At the invitation of President Enrique Peña Nieto, the President traveled to Mexico City on May 2nd and 3rd to discuss the broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues that bind the United States and Mexico, including economic competitiveness, people-to-people connections, global and regional leadership, and citizen security.

To read the full joint statement, click here. The White House also released a fact sheet on the U.S. and Mexico’s partnership which underscores the bilateral relationship between both countries. Read it here. After giving a speech at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, President Obama traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, where he participated in a bilateral meeting with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla at Casa Amarilla.

President Obama Visits Costa Rica

President Barack Obama and President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica participate in a cultural event with Costa Rican youth at Casa Amarilla, San Jose, Costa Rica, May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In his May 3rd meeting with the Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, and the Prime Minister of Belize, President Obama discussed citizen security cooperation and the importance of building safe communities that contribute to a favorable business and investment climate, highlighting our comprehensive regional partnership to improve citizen security and our support for economic growth and development in Central America.

President Obama and President Chinchilla also participated in a joint press conference, as well as a working dinner. During the press conference, the President spoke about the friendship and economic ties between our two countries:

“Costa Rica shows the benefits of trade that is free and fair. Over the last few years, under the Central America Free Trade Agreement, our trade with Costa Rica has doubled, creating more jobs for people in both of our countries. Our partnerships are creating more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including young people and women. As I told President Chinchilla, the United States will continue to be your partner as Costa Rica modernizes its economy so that you’re attracting more investment and creating even more trade and more jobs.”

Upon his return to Washington, President Obama published an Op-Ed in the Miami Herald and the Nuevo Herald about improving our partnership with Latin America. On Sunday, the President released a statement in honor of Cinco de Mayo in which he reflected upon his trip to the region and the need for common sense immigration reform:

“This week, I was proud to visit Mexico to reaffirm our vision for the Americas as a region of shared opportunity and prosperity.  I left even more convinced that we have historic opportunities to expand trade and make our economies even more competitive, so that we continue creating good jobs in both of our countries [. . .] I also emphasized the need to pass commonsense immigration reform that lives up to our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, including generations of Mexican Americans who have enriched our country [. . .] Cinco de Mayo reminds us that America’s diversity is America’s strength. Today, as we celebrate the contributions and history of Mexican Americans and Hispanics in America, let us celebrate the larger story of America and our unique immigrant heritage.”

This week we officially launched our “Mensaje Semanal de la Casa Blanca” featuring Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, on the President’s trip to Mexico and Costa Rica and the imperative to pass immigration reform this year.

Watch the video or download the audio here.

As always, please share with your networks and have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

Julie Chavez Rodriguez Associate Director White House | Office of Public Engagement

Agency Updates

CMS Announces Opportunity to Apply for Marketplace Navigator Grants April 9, 2013 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the availability of new funding to support Navigators in Federally-facilitated and State Partnership Marketplaces. Navigators are individuals and entities that will provide unbiased information to consumers about health insurance, the new Health Insurance Marketplace, qualified health plans, and public programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Court Approves Plan To Provide Comprehensive Services To ELL Students In Denver Public Schools April 16, 2013 A federal court in Denver approved a comprehensive consent decree between the Department of Justice, the Congress of Hispanic Educators (CHE), and the Denver Public Schools (DPS) that requires DPS to provide language services to the more than 28,000 English Language Learner (ELL) students enrolled in the district’s 170 schools. The consent decree is the product of compliance monitoring by the department and the CHE, and DPS’s recognition that the 1999 order no longer reflected the district’s own best practices for serving ELL students.

HHS releases blueprint to advance culturally and linguistically appropriate services in health and health care April 24, 2013 Health and Human Services (HHS) today released enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care – a blueprint to help organizations improve health care quality in serving our nation’s diverse communities.

Fact Sheet: Administration Partners with Industry to Get Service Members Credentialed for High-Demand Jobs April 29, 2013 At the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private partnership that will enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service. The Administration also announced a new grant program through the Department of Health and Human Services that will help veterans with health care experience pursue professional nursing careers and earn a nursing license.

Obama Administration Simplifies, Significantly Shortens Application For Health Insurance April 30, 2013 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced that the application for health coverage has been simplified and significantly shortened. The application for individuals without health insurance has been reduced from twenty-one to three pages, and the application for families is reduced by two-thirds. The consumer friendly forms are much shorter than industry standards for health insurance applications today.

Blog Highlights

President Obama Visits Mexico and Costa Rica President Obama made his fourth visit to Mexico and continued on to Costa Rica on what was also his sixth visit to Latin America. On this journey, the President highlighted and reinforced the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America. Disponible en español aquí.

The International Influences of Cinco de Mayo Favorites Over the years, Cinco de Mayo has become more mainstream, with celebrations that bring together music, art and cuisine shaped by the rich culture and international influences of Mexico and Latin America. Avocados, cilantro, and chili peppers are a few key ingredients for traditional Cinco de Mayo dishes.  Each of these sees significant retail and sale activity during the holiday week, and each come with its own unique story.

Supporting Local Communities by Building Capacity and Cutting Red Tape One year ago, the President established the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) that established an innovative new model of federal-local collaboration dedicated to assisting communities get back on their feet and create jobs by helping them better leverage federal resources and form key partnerships to implement economic visions. Teams of federal employees are embedded with seven Mayors across the country to provide tailored technical assistance to cut through red tape, increase government efficiency, and build partnerships to help local leaders implement sustainable economic plans.

For Guatemalan Workers, a Ray of Hope Trade agreements between the United States and other nations are not just about the free exchange of goods and services; they’re also about protecting the workers who produce and provide them. In a global economy, protecting workers’ rights abroad helps protect workers’ rights here at home by ensuring a fairer global playing field.

Secretary Napolitano Meets With Counterparts From Mexico Recently, Secretary Napolitano met with Mexican Secretary of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, furthering the collaboration between the United States and Mexico on our shared responsibility for issues related to migration, border security, and facilitating legitimate travel and trade.

Get Involved

Apply for the Fall 2013 White House Internship Program The application for the Fall 2013 White House Internship Program is now open. This hands-on program is designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office of the President and engage them in public service opportunities. Learn more about the program and the application process. The deadline to apply is May 12, 2013.

USCIS Hosts Spanish-language Enlace Sessions On Wednesday, May 8, 2013, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Eastern), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will conduct a national Spanish-language Enlace session as part of an ongoing series of quarterly public engagements to provide agency updates, discuss immigration-related topics, and answer your questions. USCIS representatives will be available for participants to discuss regulations, policies, operations, and forms, but will not offer legal or case-specific advice. The event will be broadcast live from USCIS Headquarters and you can participate by:

Get Updates

Weekly Address: Fixing our Immigratio​n System and Expanding Trade in Latin America

President Obama describes the incredible opportunities to create middle-class jobs in America by deepening our economic ties and expanding trade in Latin America and discusses recent Senate bill that takes commonsense steps to fix our broken immigration system.

Mexico & Costa Rica Trip: On Thursday, President Obama started a three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica for his first visit to Latin America of the second term. During the trip, the President hopes to reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties we share with Mexico and Central America.

Yesterday, the President had a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Peña Nieto at Palacio National in Mexico City. The bulk of his discussions in Mexico will cover the economy, and in Costa Rica, the President will meet with Central American leaders, who are important partners in improving foreign policy and the economy.

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, previewed the trip before leaving Washington. Check out the video on YouTube.

Transportation Secretary Nominated: On Tuesday, the President nominated the Mayor of Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, for Transportation Secretary. As mayor, Foxx modernized the electric train service to Charlotte’s downtown area, expanded the international airport, and extended the city’s light rail system. The President hopes cities can mimic the work done in Charlotte to attract more business, create more jobs, and stay competitive in the global economy.

Our top priority as a nation right now is doing everything we can to grow our economy and create good jobs and rebuild opportunity for the middle class. And one of the best ways we can do that is to put more Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure.

New FHFA and FCC Heads Picked: On Wednesday, the President announced the nominations of Representative Melvin Watt, as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and Tom Wheeler, as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Watt served for 20 years as a member of the congressional committee that oversees housing policy and will be responsible for looking over mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The President will look for Wheeler to head the FCC to ensure American businesses and workers have “the tools they need to compete in the 21st century economy.”

Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative Tapped: On Thursday, the President announced his nominations of Penny Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce and Mike Froman as U.S. Trade Representative.

Pritzker is one of “our country’s most distinguished business leaders” with more than 25 years of management experience in real estate, finance, and hospitality.

If confirmed as U.S. Trade Representative, Froman, will bring with him over two decades in both the public and private sectors.  The President described him as “one of the world’s foremost experts on our global economy” who pushes until “he’s delivered the best possible deal for American businesses and American works.”

Hiring More Veterans: On Wednesday, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden participated in a Joining Forces employment event announcing new hiring commitments for veterans and military spouses. Two years ago, the President challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. The First Lady announced American companies achieved this goal eight months ahead of schedule. To date, 290,000 veterans or military spouses have been hired by the private sector, almost triple the original goal.

At the event, the First Lady continued the call to action and said American companies have committed to hire or train 435,000 veterans or military spouses over the next five years.

Joining Forces is a comprehensive national initiative to serve our service members and their families. Check out Joining Forces to find simple ways you can help veterans and military families.

Open for Questions: On Wednesday, President Obama held a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room covering a range of issues. The President responded to questions pertaining to Syria and our national security, the Boston Marathon bombing, gun legislation, health care, and immigration reform.  Watch the full press conference here and read the President’s full remarks here.

Correspondents’ Dinner: On Saturday, President Obama poked fun at himself at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton. The President was joined by host Conan O’Brien, First Lady Michelle Obama, members of the media, and a collection of celebrities. During his remarks, he shared a promo for Steven Spielberg’s follow-up to “Lincoln” called “Obama.”

You can watch the President’s full remarks on YouTube and read his remarks here.

150th Anniversary of National Academy of Sciences: On Monday, the President delivered remarks at the National Academy of Sciences on its 150th anniversary. The President thanked the Academy for its contributions and for helping create a strong economy, improving our health, and protecting our environment.

For 150 years, you’ve strived to answer big questions, solve tough problems, not for yourselves but for the benefit of the nation.  And that legacy has endured from the Academy’s founding days.  And when you look at our history, you’ve stepped up at times of enormous need and, in some cases, great peril.