Ángelo Cabrera Joins Baruch College

Ángelo Cabrera, happy to be back in New York. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Ángelo Cabrera, happy to be back in New York. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Ángelo Cabrera, a Mexican man who for 24 years lived in New York in the shadows as an undocumented immigrant, celebrated his return to the Big Apple this week, now carrying a visa and work authorization.

“Today, we are not only celebrating the story of Ángelo Cabrera, but the story of a community as a whole,” said Cabrera himself, who originally arrived in the U.S. in 1990 when he was 15 years old as part of the immigration wave hailing from the Mixtec region of San Antonio Texcala in the state of Puebla.

In an interview with El Diario, Cabrera ‒ now 41 ‒ said that he was a day laborer, worked at a few delis and even sold tamales when he first arrived in New York. His struggles did not make his spirit falter and, with the little money he made, he invested in his education and obtained two degrees, one in political science and a master’s in public administration.

Professor Robert C. Smith, from Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs, noticed Cabrera’s tenacity and became the student’s mentor. Although Smith recommended that he work in their area of specialization, Cabrera’s undocumented status legally prevented him from taking the job.

Ángelo Cabrera, during the press conference in which he announced his new immigration status, alongside lawyer Allan Wernick, Consul General of Mexico Sandra Fuentes-Berain and Congressman Joseph Crowley. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Ángelo Cabrera, during the press conference in which he announced his new immigration status, alongside lawyer Allan Wernick, Consul General of Mexico Sandra Fuentes-Berain and Rep. Joseph Crowley. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

It was then that Cabrera decided to return to Mexico to ask for a pardon from the U.S. immigration authorities and request permission to re-enter the country.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency denied Cabrera’s petition on Aug. 13, 2014. That propelled Change.org, political website Daily Kos, several elected officials and even the Mexican consulate to start a campaign in New York to bring Cabrera back to the U.S.

“It is remarkable to see that, when we work together, great change can be effected,” expressed Cabrera, who said he was very grateful to the people who supported his cause.

“My thing now will be to go back to working with the community from the standpoint of nonprofit organizations in projects aimed at bringing a better future for our community,” he said.

More than 25,000 people ‒ including community organizations ‒ signed the petition, which asked immigration authorities to reverse Cabrera’s case. The agency finally complied, and Cabrera was able to return to the U.S. and has been in New York since late March.

“Many people are going through the same situation I lived through, and I believe that my case reflects the needs of many others,” he said. This week, Cabrera started to work as a community and social services specialist at the same School of Public Affairs in Baruch College where he used to study. The college is part of the City University of New York (CUNY).

During the two years he spent in Mexico waiting on his case, Cabrera dedicated himself to sharing his experience and working with deported students in a Puebla university.

At Baruch College, Cabrera will be responsible for developing projects aimed at specifically addressing the immigration issues suffered by the Hispanic community, Mexicans in particular. The organizer said that his work will focus on three areas, the first of which will involve working with DACA students to continue promoting  deferred action and conducting field studies on that topic. Secondly, he will support campaigns to assist students in the Mexican community in their application to the CUNY college system. Lastly, he plans to encourage parents to register children so they start their education early.

Cabrera insisted that his case represents an opportunity for thousands of people to see light at the end of the tunnel.

“Now that, thank God, I have had the chance to come out of the shadows and I am authorized to work, I will be able to contribute in a more profound way to support our Mexican immigrant community. I believe that it is important to point out the fact that the Supreme Court is debating DACA and DAPA is a first step in continuing to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.”

During the time when he was combining work and study, Cabrera never abandoned his passion for activism with nonprofit organizations, which led him to establish a solid relationship with the Mexican consulate.

In 2001, he created the Bronx-based Mexican-American Students Alliance (MASA), which offers guidance to young immigrant students who wish to continue their college education, and teaches English to the students’ parents.

Cabrera has clear objectives in mind. “Right now, the most important thing is to keep pushing so that the Supreme Court agrees to allow the president’s DAPA and DACA executive actions to take effect.”

The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) ‒ also known as “immigration relief” ‒ signed by President Obama in November 2014 would benefit nearly 5 million undocumented people out of the 11.3 million who live in the United States.

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