After Angelica Velasquez’s father came to the United States from Mexico at age 20, he was deported several times. But he returned, married, and started a construction business. “He’s a contributor. Plus, they raised me and my five siblings, and we’re all great contributors,” says Velasquez, 41, the human resources and operations manager for Thermcor, a manufacturer of insulation for ships. Her father’s story has inspired Velasquez’s views on immigration: A new system should recognize people who can prove they would be an asset to society. “If you’re not here legally, perhaps you can have the option to earn the right to stay by being enrolled in school or having a minimum GPA requirement,” says Velasquez, who’s president of the National Latina Business Women’s Association of San Diego.
He’s a contributor. Plus, they raised me and my five siblings, and we’re all great contributors.
Velasquez would also like to see immigrants who arrived in the United States as children be given a pathway to permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship. “I have a Dreamer friend who’s incredibly talented, but she can’t go to college because she doesn’t qualify for financial aid,” she says. Her own belief in the opportunities education affords motivated her to earn a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Chapman University. In addition, Velasquez spends much of her free time helping people in her community improve their economic standing, and, by extension, the economic vitality of the area. She helps veterans write resumes and teaches new immigrants and low-income women about new work opportunities. “I hear women say, ‘I want to go back to school. I never thought of that career.’ They don’t know there’s a certificate for that,” she says. “I want to see us empower and educate each other. “I’ve been successful, and I want to motivate young women to go after their dreams.” For many undocumented workers, that change starts with immigration reform.