California appoints first undocumented immigrant to official post

Top Democrat calls out Donald Trump in announcing appointment

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Thursday 15 March 2018 13:37 EDT
A view of the California state capitol in Sacramento, which has become a hub of opposition to Donald Trump
A view of the California state capitol in Sacramento, which has become a hub of opposition to Donald Trump

California has appointed an unauthorised immigrant to an official state post, a first that also functions as the state’s latest act of defiance against Donald Trump.

State Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat who is running for the US Senate on an anti-Trump platform, announced that 33-year-old attorney Lizbeth Mateo would serve as a member of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee. The appointment is unpaid.

“While Donald Trump fixates on walls, California will continue to concentrate on opportunities,” Mr de León said in a statement.

Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, Ms Mateo came to Los Angeles with her parents when she was 14. She said in a statement that her experience as an undocumented, first-generation college student would inform her work.

“While undocumented students have become more visible in our state, they remain underrepresented in places where decisions that affect them are being made,” Ms. Mateo said.

Dominated politically by Democrats who are sympathetic to immigrants, California has a long history of both shielding from deportation and offering new rights to immigrants in the country illegally.

In recent years, the state has passed laws allowing undocumented immigrants to secure drivers licenses and to practice law. After the latter measure passed, the California Supreme Court ruled in favour of an undocumented immigrant named Sergio Garcia who had been fighting for a law license.

Governor Jerry Brown last year signed a so-called “sanctuary” law that bars law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless federal agents have a warrant or immigrants of interest to ICE have been convicted of serious crimes.

California Governor Jerry Brown: 'we know the Trump administration is full of liars'

The law, specifically crafted to counteract the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, has prompted a legal challenge from the Department of Justice and frequent denunciations from Mr Trump.

“California sanctuary policies put the entire nation at risk”, the President said this week during his first visit to California since taking office. “They’re the best friend of the criminal”.

State elected officials have been similarly vocal in denouncing the Trump administration. Mr Brown last week decried the federal government “going to war” against California and slammed the administration as “full of liars”.

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