Who Is Ana Zamora, Michelle Obama's State Of The Union Guest & The Face Of The Immigration Debate?
One of the most interesting parts of the president's annual State of the Union address is his guest list, usually comprised of an blend of people from different backgrounds, their presence important for the issues each of them represent. This year, Obama's SOTU guest list includes individuals who have made significant contributions to the country in their own way — astronaut Scott Walker, former Cuban prisoner Alan Gross and his wife and head honcho of CVS Health Larry J. Merlo, to name a few, but also in attendance will be average Americans, neither wealthy nor famous, struggling with the same problems that millions of us face, too. One of these SOTU guests is Ana Zamora, 20-year-old DREAMer from Texas, who will be sitting with the First Lady at the event.
On Tuesday evening, Zamora will be the face of the immigration debate brewing in the nation's capital. Brought to the U.S. from Mexico at a mere year old, Zamora's status, like that of millions of others in the country who moved here in search of a more promising future, was in limbo — until Obama passed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) bill in 2012, which allowed her to obtain a work permit, a Social Security number, driver's license, and a reprieve, though for a temporary two years, from deportation.
Zamora's newfound legal status compelled her to write to the White House last September to express her gratitude. In a letter addressed to Obama, she detailed:
My parents brought me to the United States before my first birthday, 20 years ago. As with any other dreamer, my parents came to this country with a dream of a better future for their children... I am finally a person in the United States. I have a Social Security number, an employment authorization card and a driver’s license to drive the car I pay for with my own money (which I earned working with my employment authorization card) and pay taxes as any law-abiding U.S. citizen. I could not be more proud of myself!!!
Come May, Zamora will be the first in her family to graduate from college — which she put herself through working part- and full-time in between classes — with a business administration major and hospitality minor at Northwood University. She does acknowledge, though, that her achievements, especially considering her circumstances, are unique — though well deserved. Zamora told MSNBC:
I grew up in a low-income community. I am a Latina. I am a woman. At some point, I didn’t have a status in this county and yet I was able to graduate from high school. I’m about to graduate from college. I have broken statistics that others maybe have not. I find it a huge jump from where my parents were when they first got here to where I stand now.
Her presence at the SOTU speech is vital in the immigration battle, as the Republican-led Congress has made stalling Obama's plan for immigration reform one of its chief priorities. Last Wednesday, House Republicans voted to block Obama's immigration proposal and to end an existing program that has, during its existence, deferred deportation for 500,000 DREAMers.
For Zamora, she has goals of working in apartment management and someday owning property. Putting a face to successful immigration reform, Zamora said she wants to give a voice to others in her situation:
I wanted to speak up for me and those who can’t. I’m extremely grateful for DACA. There remains fear. My status as of now is defined by a two-year mark, but for me, this is my country, and changes have to be made.
Image: Whitehouse.gov/sotu; Getty Images (3), WFAA