University of Iowa

In the news: University of Iowa grad, now working for Kamala Harris, shares her immigration story

August 7th, 2019
Lilian Sanchez, a 2018 University of Iowa graduate, is photographed Jan. 29, 2019, with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris at the CNN town hall
Lilian Sanchez, a 2018 University of Iowa graduate, is photographed Jan. 29, 2019, with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris at the CNN town hall in Des Moines. Sanchez now is on the Iowa campaign staff for Harris, a Democrat running for president in 2020. (Submitted photo)

By Erin Jordan

One of Lilian Sanchez’s goals as an Iowa campaign staffer for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat running for president, is to help the candidate connect with Latino voters in Iowa.

Sanchez, 23, of Des Moines, knows how important it is for Harris to hear these voices and for Latino voters to discover how Harris will serve them if she’s elected.

“I wanted to work for someone who I knew would be a fighter for the vulnerable,” Sanchez said. “You see the real investment in seeing people as people, not just as votes.”

Sanchez, a 2018 University of Iowa graduate, was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She also was the first Latina voted vice president of the UI Student Government. These firsts, along with her status as a permanent U.S. resident, have made Sanchez feel a responsibility to share her immigration story.

Sanchez came to the United States when she was 7 with her mother, Martha Garcia, and her sister, Alexia, then 5.

“Our story is very similar to many immigrants here in the state and across the country,” Sanchez said. “My mom was fleeing an abusive household in Mexico. We moved to Iowa because my mom thought it would be a great place for us to have a better life and access to education.”

Garcia and her daughters were able to apply for residency through a program for victims of domestic violence, Sanchez said. The family had relatives in Iowa, but Garcia had to work two or three jobs at a time to provide for her children.

“Not speaking English very well when she first moved here and also not being well educated about our rights, she was susceptible to wage theft,” Sanchez said.

But Garcia finished her GED, started her own child care center and now is a U.S. citizen, her daughter said.

 

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