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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Isabel Castillo, Undocumented DREAM Act Advocate, To Be Honored at USF Graduation

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Isabel Castillo would like a job in her field already.
  • Isabel Castillo would like a job in her field already.

Tomorrow, another class of University of San Francisco graduates will head into the working world. And while they are understandably worried about landing a job, the university will award an honorary doctorate to a young woman who has even less hope of getting a gig, given that she's an illegal immigrant.

Isabel Castillo of Harrisonburg, Virginia, has been a vocal advocate for the DREAM Act, the federal bill that died in Congress in December. The bill would have allowed illegal immigrants who came to America as kids and attended two years of college a pathway to legal citizenship.

Castillo didn't go to USF. She attended Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, and was one of the most vocal advocates among a movement of students who spoke in favor of the bill, despite the risk that they could face major consequences for coming out as illegal immigrants.

In our story last year, many of the students we interviewed didn't want to use their real names because they feared being targeted for deportation. The one who did use her name, Prerna Lal, is now facing deportation proceedings.

The 26-year-old Castillo led rallies, organized a march on Washington, and staged a sit-in at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office, where she was finally arrested, but not deported. She became one of the the poster children for the Dream Act, and the martyr for students who were disappointed when Congress voted against taking up the law.

She told The New York Times in February:
"At first, I'd only allow the media to shoot my face turned away and only my first name. And then it just progressed. I said, 'OK, use my face and you can say I went to a local university.'" Then it was 'I graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and I'm Isabel Castillo." 
USF President Stephen Privett read a news story about her and decided to give her an honorary doctorate degree.

"We honor Isabel Castillo for her selfless courage in advancing the cause of undocumented college students and to underscore the fundamental unfairness of our denying a path to citizenship to some of the most motivated college students in the country," Privett said in a statement.

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Lauren Smiley


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