Beatriz De La Espriella, graduated from the University of Florida majoring in Criminology. For the last two years she has been a leader of the student organization CHISPAS which focuses on addressing the pressing needs of the immigrant community through advocacy and service. She is the North Florida Steering Committee Representative of the Florida Immigrant Youth Network. In the past two years Beatriz has worked with both campus and community members to organize against anti-immigrant legislation and work towards education for all regardless of immigration status. As part of CHISPAS, she started a campaign called, Undocumented Not Uneducated, that asked the university to effect policy change and openly accept undocumented students to the University. She was a Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Undergraduate Research Scholar and has conducted research to identify the relationship between acculturation, assimilation and analogous delinquent behavior of Hispanic immigrants.
YP4: What do you stand for?
I stand for equality, fair access to education for all, youth and community empowerment. I also stand for reform that would allow the undocumented members of our community to come out of the shadows and stop being afraid of their status.
YP4: How did you become involved with YP4?
I heard of the program through multiple conversations of members of the Florida Immigrant Youth Network but mainly, it was my conversation with YP4 alumni, Mayra Hidalgo. As part of her Blueprint she created a community program in Polk County Florida that provides access to legal aid for undocumented people, which inspired me to take action and get involved with YP4.
YP4: What is your Blueprint for Social Justice?
My Blueprint for Social Justice, Above Status, focuses on providing resources, empowering and educating the undocumented youth/population of the Orlando, Florida (central Florida area) through community forums and events.
YP4: What has been your greatest achievement so far?
My education – after being told I couldn’t go to college because of my immigration status and struggling to pay for classes, I overcame. I proved the system wrong and graduated May 2012 with my bachelors in criminology, a dream come true.
YP4: What motivates and inspires you?
My family moves me, motivates me and guides me to make the decisions I need to make in life. I don’t think I would be able to be who without my parents and siblings. I also get inspired by the work of undocumented youth themselves who continue fighting and empowering themselves to make a difference in their community.
YP4: What is a main goal that you want to accomplish?
My main goal is to provide the undocumented immigrant community a voice in the struggle and speak up for those that are afraid.
YP4: What is your vision for the world?
My vision for the world is a place where we can all speak without fear of being looked at differently, or being ashamed of who we are, who we love and where we come from. I envision a world where everyone is treated as equals and not marginalized.
YP4: How do you feel you fit in to the Progressive Movement?
I feel I fit in pretty well! The progressive movement has allowed me to see things differently and see the real causes or roots of the many problems our society has. I feel fortunate to be part of this movement.
YP4: What is a struggle that you’ve faced or are facing in your work?
One of the main struggles I have balancing or separating my emotions in the work I do. It makes me really upset when people who have been directly affected by the immigration laws and have the opportunity of fixed their status but yet don’t do anything to help those who are still undocumented. It bothers me to know people that were affected by the issue but stop caring once they fix their status.
YP4: What advice do you have for others dealing with those struggles?
Life is a balancing act and I think the most important thing is to remember that even if we cannot get 30 people to care, we can still make a difference with the 10 dedicated and committed individuals that are ready to fight for immigrant rights.
YP4: How can other Fellows get involved or find more information about the work you’re doing?
There are many ways to get involved – As part of my Blueprint, Above Status, we are developing multiple community forums to educate the community about their Rights in front of the law and also about their education opportunities regardless of immigration status. You may email me at Beatriz.firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or if you are working on a similar issue – I would love to share ideas!
YP4: What advice would you give to the 2013-2014 incoming class of Fellows?
Trust the process and enjoy! This Fellowship is life changing – it gives you the opportunity of engaging with people with similar ideas but it also challenges you to see things differently, to see things at a deeper level.
YP4: If every time you entered a room your theme song played, what would it be and why?
Any merengue, bachata or salsa! I love the flavor our Hispanic music brings to a room. I like happiness and charisma and the Latin music has that.
YP4: Is there anything else that you want to say?
I read this a while back and it always stayed with me… “Sky above me, Earth below me, Fire within me” It reminds me to always reach high for the stars, to not forget my roots and where I come from and to always think of my passions and what moves me to work towards an inclusive community. Remember to always fight for the bigger things, to never forget your background/story and to search for answers within yourselves, no one else will give you those things.