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Immigrant's story featured in Times retold in U.S. Senate

July 19, 2012 | 12:00 pm

Maria gomez
The story of Maria Gomez, the aspiring Los Angeles architect whose parents brought her to the United States illegally as a child, was invoked on the floor of the U.S. Senate in an argument for the Dream Act.

Gomez’s situation came to the attention of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) after her story appeared in the Los Angeles Times last month, detailing her academic success, her graduation from UCLA with a master's in architecture, and her struggle to find work in a country where she lacks papers.

In Congress on Tuesday, Durbin, an advocate of the controversial Dream Act – which would provide a path to legal status for certain people brought here illegally as children, raised a blown-up photo of Gomez in her graduation cap.

Durbin said he supported President Obama’s recent announcement that a class of young illegal immigrants would be allowed to apply for work permits, but argued that the Dream Act remained necessary as a longer-term solution.

“I ask my colleagues who are critical of the Dream Act and President Obama’s new policy: Would you prefer that we deport Maria Gomez back to the Mexico at this point in her life, a country that she has not lived in since she was a small child?” Durbin said.

“She grew up here. She has overcome amazing odds to become successful. This determined young woman can make America a better nation.”

Since the story appeared, Gomez, 27, has found a position as an unpaid intern at a Los Angeles architecture firm. She said she will soon apply for a work permit under the Obama policy, and hopes to save up enough money for a plane ticket to visit Durbin in Washington.

“I was in shock,” she said of watching footage of the senator’s speech. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. That’s my face. He’s talking about me.”


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--Christopher Goffard

Photo: Maria Gomez adjusts her cap before her graduation ceremony at UCLA. Christina House / For The Times.