Undocumented CSUN graduate is arrested
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/18/2010 08:22:56 PM PDT
Updated: 05/18/2010 09:18:45 PM PDT
An undocumented graduate of Cal State Northridge was in custody Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of trespassing during a protest at the Tucson, Ariz., office of Republican Sen. John McCain.
Lizbeth Mateo, 25, was one of five students who donned caps and gowns before staging a sit-in Monday to demand immigration reform. Mateo and two others acknowledged they are living in the U.S. illegally.
Several of Mateo's friends held vigils Tuesday evening outside the Los Angeles offices of Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, seeking her release.
"This is a very talented young woman who has the ability to become a professional and give back to society but now she could be kicked out of this country," said Raymundo Hernandez, 28, a CSUN graduate student in Chicano studies.
Mateo and several student immigrants traveled to Arizona last week to protest that state's passage of strict new immigration laws.
The sit-in was staged to urge McCain to support the so-called Dream Act, which would create a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and have successfully completed their education.
McCain was not available for comment.
But on Monday, a McCain spokeswoman said the Republican senator understood the students' frustration and encouraged them to take up their cause with the president and "the Democrats that control Congress."
Mateo, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 14. She graduated from CSUN in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in Chicano studies.
She also launched a group at CSUN, Dreams to be Heard, that advocated for the rights of undocumented students. As a graduate, Mateo joined other immigrant-rights groups including Dream Team L.A., a coalition of immigrant groups supporting the Dream Act.
Nancy Meza, a spokeswoman for Dream Team L.A., said Mateo intentionally risked deportation to bring awareness to the need for immigration reform.
"This was a very intentional action as part of the undocumented youth movement," Meza said.
"We needed to show something drastic ... that we are willing to give up everything to move the Dream Act forward."
Wire services contributed to this report.