Daniela Carvajal-Macias, a junior pre-law student majoring in Spanish, has been selected for a National High School Equivalency Program/CAMP Association Congressional Internship. Over the summer, she will work with Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva, who has served his congressional district since 2003.
“I am super excited and a little nervous,” Carvajal-Macias said. “I want to learn more about what it is like to work in a congressional office, and I look forward to seeing where this opportunity takes me.”
She will work alongside Grijalva’s staff to draft communications to constituents, write and review documents, and strategize to develop and advance legislation on issues he supports. Although interns typically serve in Washington, D.C., she will carry out her duties virtually due to the pandemic.
Carvajal-Macias comes from a family of migrant seasonal farm workers in Wenatchee, Wash., and is part of WSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) program. She said immigrant families like hers often face language barriers, poverty, and lack of access to affordable healthcare and quality education. The internship will show her the ways these challenges are being addressed on state and national levels, and the role she can play in helping to solve them.
CAMP Director Michael Heim said Carvajal-Macias checks all the boxes the National HEP CAMP Association seeks for its interns: She is a very focused student that quickly comprehends new materials, works closely with her professors and CAMP staff, and follows through on everything she commits to doing.
“Her family sees education as being very important to their growth and development working in the agricultural industry — it is something they prioritize,” Heim said. “Daniela has overcome many barriers and has taken control of her circumstances.”
Advocating for immigrant rights
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Carvajal-Macias watched in fear whenever the news covered immigration issues during the 2016 presidential election. She vividly remembers sitting her parents down one evening to ask what would happen to her and her younger siblings if her parents were deported. It was one of the most difficult conversations she has ever had.
“I couldn’t speak full sentences because I kept crying,” she said. “They told me as the oldest child, I would have to take responsibility for our house and family. They also stressed they wanted me to continue my education.”
Adding to the stress of potential deportation, last year, both of Carvajal-Macias’s grandfathers passed away in Mexico. Her parents, who have sought a pathway to citizenship in the United States for nearly 30 years, were unable to travel to Mexico to say goodbye to their fathers, knowing they would not be allowed to return to the United States and their children.
These difficult experiences helped fuel Carvajal-Macias’s determination to become an immigration lawyer. She is excited to be matched with Grijalva, who is a strong advocate for immigration rights, and looks forward to working with his team to advance legislation that will improve the lives of people like her parents.
“Because my parents are immigrants, I feel very connected to his values,” she said. “After law school, I want to advocate for immigrants because, like my parents, they have given so much to this country.”
Reaching their potential
CAMP is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education through the Office of Migrant Education. It has served Pullman students with migrant or seasonal farm working backgrounds since 2006 and offers a variety of services such as advising, helping students improve their study skills, and connecting them with valuable resources. Carvajal-Macias said those services are essential to the success of students from seasonal migrant farm-working families, who often face barriers other students do not.
Heim said his staff’s primary objective is to help each student in the CAMP program reach their potential.
“We help them discover the intrinsic power they have within them, teach them how to harness it, and encourage them to go for it in everything they do,” he said. “The magic happens when students like Daniela really believe in themselves.”
Top photo: Daniela Carvajal-Macias
By Steve Nakata, WSU Student Affairs, for WSU Insider.