The Golden State made some history this week, and it's a big milestone. For the first time in California history, an undocumented immigrant has been appointed to a position in the state's government. The undocumented immigrant in question is Lizbeth Mateo, and she'll reportedly be serving on the California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee, a committee which advises the California Student Aid Commission on how to make college more available for prospective students who come from poor and underserved backgrounds.
According to The Sacramento Bee, the state's Senate Rules Committee approved the appointment on Wednesday, and it was subsequently announced by the office of Sen. Kevin de Leon, the California state Senate's president pro tempore. In a statement following the appointment, de Leon hailed 33-year-old Mateo as a "courageous, determined, and intelligent young woman," and included a pointed criticism of President Donald Trump.
"While Donald Trump fixates on walls, California will continue to concentrate on opportunities," de Leon said. "Ms. Mateo is a courageous, determined and intelligent young woman who at great personal risk has dedicated herself to fight for those seeking their rightful place in this country."
Mateo, according to The Bee, is a licensed attorney and an activist in support of immigrant's rights. She reportedly earned her law degree from Santa Clara University in 2016, and first immigrated to the United States with her parents at age 14.
When it comes to matters of immigration — undocumented immigration in particular — the state of California has recently taken a defiant posture against the Trump administration. Trump, for his part, has frequently called for an end to so-called "sanctuary cities," and has particularly focused his ire on California. This week, for example, he attacked the state on Twitter, insisting that its approach to immigration is "illegal and unconstitutional."
"California’s sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk," the president tweeted on Tuesday. "Thousands of dangerous [and] violent criminal aliens are released as a result of sanctuary policies, set free to prey on innocent Americans. THIS MUST STOP!"
The state, however, has shown no signs of cooperating with Trump's demands, and in some cases, elected officials have openly worked to stymie the efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. In particular, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf alerted the Bay Area's undocumented immigrants to a planned ICE raid late last month, drawing criticism from conservatives and anti-immigration voices, and praise from the progressive grassroots and advocates for the undocumented.
Needless to say, taking a job in the state government raises Mateo's profile considerably, and that carries risks for someone in her position. Since Trump took office last year, ICE raids and immigration-related arrests have increased sharply, and Trump has regularly used rhetoric widely deemed offensive and inflammatory when discussing undocumented immigrants.
Based on the tenor of Trump's presidential campaign, it's not surprising that he's promoted far-right policies and ideas on immigration. In fact, within the first five minutes of his presidential campaign announcement speech, he infamously claimed that Mexico was sending "rapists" across the border, while adding "some, I assume, are good people."
Trump himself actually visited the state of California earlier this week to view prototypes for his long-proposed border wall, and was met with a cold reception from many Democratic lawmakers. Rep. Juan C. Vargas, for example, was unsparing in his assessment of the proposed border wall, as The New York Times detailed.
"This wall is a symbol of hate," he said.
In short, Trump appears to be meeting staunch resistance from the state of California, and that may at least partially be because he has no meaningful base of political power in the state. A historically blue haven, California is one of the relatively rare states living under a Democratic trifecta, with the governor's office, state Senate, and state House all controlled by the Democrats.