A California Senate committee appointed an undocumented immigrant to a statewide post for the first time, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León’s office confirmed Wednesday.
The state’s Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday appointed Lizbeth Mateo, an undocumented Los Angeles attorney and immigrant rights activist, to be a part of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee as an adviser on college access and financial aid, the Sacramento Bee reported.
In a statement, De León praised Mateo, stating that while President Donald Trump “fixates on walls, California will continue to concentrate on opportunities.”
“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 León added.
The Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee works towards helping students from low-income or underserved communities gain access to college. Mateo will be responsible for advising the committee to help low-income and marginalized people attend college.
“While undocumented students have become more visible in our state, they remain underrepresented in places where decisions that affect them are being made,” Mateo said in a statement.
Senate President de León, who is running against incumbent Dianne Feinstein for the United States Senate, announced Mateo’s appointment the day after President Trump visited California to view prototypes of his proposed border wall. The appointment also comes a week after the Justice Department sued the state of California over policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Born in Mexico, Mateo arrived in the United States and moved to California with her parents when she was 14 years old. In 2016, she completed her graduation from Santa Clara University law school, according to the Sacramento Bee. Mateo was admitted to the State Bar in June 2017.
Illegal immigrants in California gained the legal right to practice law in 2014.
California Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon’s office confirmed to the Washington Examiner on Thursday that the attorney is the first-ever illegal immigrant to be given a state-appointed job and added that it was not aware of any other state to have done so yet.
It was not made clear if Mateo is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which would then give her legal protections from deportation and work authorization.
Assemblyman Travis Allen, a Republican from Huntington Beach, criticized Mateo’s appointment saying “This is an insult to every California citizen and legal resident. The California Democratic Party now prioritizes illegal immigrants over California citizens.”
Trump has continued to criticize and condemn California’s immigration laws that, according to him, contradict federal law. Specifically, the president has taken exception to the state’s granting of so-called “sanctuary cities,” where law enforcement officers and other officials are not permitted to help federal authorities with immigration control.
“California’s sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk,” the president said on Tuesday.