WSU intern witnesses high court immigrant deliberations - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

WSU intern witnesses high court immigrant deliberations

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PULLMAN, WA - Washington State University junior Adilenne Villanueva felt anticipation and anxiety while watching the U.S. Supreme Court justices deliberate on a landmark case recently.

Riding on the court’s decision was whether or not more than 5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would be protected from deportation and allowed to work legally in the country. This was part of executive actions put forth by President Obama called DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, and Extended DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

For Villanueva, whose parents are undocumented migrant farmworkers in White Swan, Wash., the issues discussed in the nation’s highest court were highly personal. On June 23, both executive actions failed to be adopted on a 4-4 tie. It was an emotional day for her family and others like them across the nation.

“It was heartbreaking, and to this day I’m still sad and mad,” said Villanueva of the court’s decision. “My parents work long days in the scorching sun and freezing weather to put food on our table. Why not grant them a permit that allows them to stay and not be afraid of deportation?”

While the decision didn’t go her way, Villanueva was nonetheless thrilled to be close to the action as part of a coveted summer internship with the U.S. Offices of Migrant Education and National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start. She was assigned to work with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to protecting the rights of Latinos in the United States.

Ray Acuña-Luna, academic coordinator and retention specialist in WSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), said Villanueva is a remarkable person uniquely concerned with improving educational access for underrepresented students.

“She is the epitome of someone who will advocate for resources, create partnerships and affect public policy to benefit eligible farmworker families,” he said.

With just one week remaining of her internship in Washington, D.C., Villanueva said she will return to WSU in the fall with greater passion and a clearer focus on promoting higher education to disadvantaged youth.

“I’m going to school so I can obtain a position that will allow me to advocate for and be the voice for all people whose voices aren’t being heard,” she said.

Villanueva, who is majoring in human development, is the fifth consecutive WSU CAMP student selected for the internship. Students from across the nation compete for just three positions annually.

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