Benita Veliz, undocumented immigrant, speaks

September 5, 2012

Benita Veliz, 27, just made history.

An illegal immigrant who was brought to Texas as a child, she became the first undocumented person to address a national political convention.

Actually, Veliz WAS an illegal immigrant. She now has temporary residential status under President Obama’s executive order granting a reprieve to people like Veliz, the young woman said.

Veliz, who said she was valedictorian of her high school at the age of 16, said she feels “just as American as any of my friends or neighbors.” According to her biography on Dreamactivist.org, Veliz described herself this way: “I’ve never been married. I don’t have any children. I went straight from high school to college and then to work. The only family I have left in Mexico is on my mother’s side and I have only seen them once or twice in my life, as a young child.”

“I’ve had to live almost my entire life knowing I could be deported,” she said on the stage.

Veliz’s speech was preceded by a video about immigration with Obama saying, “it makes no sense to expel talented young people who have been raised as Americans.”

Democrats have been making a full press for Latino voters, who are key in many swing states. “President Obama fought for my community,” Veliz said.

Veliz was introducing Cristina Saralegui, an influential Hispanic talk show host who endorsed Obama in June.

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has covered local businesses, traveled to El Salvador and Guatemala to tell stories of immigrants’ connections to their home countries and reported from the newsroom’s Prince George’s County bureau. More recently, she has written about civil rights, race and politics.
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