SACRAMENTO (CN) – Fresh off a contentious visit from President Donald Trump and a federal lawsuit against their recently enacted pro-immigrant laws, California lawmakers on Wednesday hired an undocumented lawyer to a state post.
“While Donald Trump fixates on walls, California will continue to concentrate on opportunities,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, in a statement.
De Leon, who championed a 2017 proposal known as the Sanctuary State Bill, said the state Senate “made history” by appointing Lizbeth Mateo, 33, to a statewide advisory committee that promotes college programs for low income families.
Mateo moved from Mexico to Los Angeles with her parents when she was 14 before graduating from Santa Monica College, California State University, Northridge and Santa Clara University School of Law. She passed the state bar in 2017 and runs her own private practice in Los Angeles.
California became the first state to allow undocumented immigrants to practice law in 2014 and New York has followed suit. De Leon swore in Mateo as an attorney, calling her the embodiment of the American Dream. Shortly after being sworn in, she featured in a 2017 New York Times report.
“I hope to be able to draw from my own experiences as an undocumented, first generation college graduate, and from experiences of students like myself who are currently navigating or will soon navigate the higher education system,” Mateo said of her appointment. “I have no doubt that California can do more for all underrepresented students, especially in regions with low college participation rates, and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to help in any way I can.”
The appointment comes one day after Trump perused potential border wall designs in San Diego and a fundraiser in Beverly Hills. During his short trip to the Golden State, Trump claimed “California is begging us to build walls in certain areas” and that the state’s sanctuary cities “put the entire nation at risk.”
In light of the Trump administration’s lawsuit and rhetoric, De Leon calls Mateo the embodiment of the “American Dream.”
“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,” De Leon said.