AISD teacher honored at White House for helping undocumented immigrants

As a Texas State grad struggling to figure out how to join the workforce undocumented, Maria Dominguez was in her car in 2012 when she heard about a presidential executive action that would change her life.

"It truly meant the world to me. It meant that now I could do anything. That's the way I saw it. Now I could start working at my dream school. I could help my community," Dominguez said.

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  The program helps those who came to the U.S. before they were 16, among other requirements.

Those eligible for DACA don't get deported and they get a work permit. It's something Ken Zarafis with Education Austin passionately supports.

"It just makes perfect sense. You want to have an educated society. Educate them and let's get everybody to work. Why waste that resource?" Zarafis said.

On Tuesday, Education Austin honored Dominguez for her work educating the community on DACA. Last week, she was recognized at the White House as a "Champion of Change."

Dominguez came to the U.S. when she was nine after her father, a registered Texan, died. The temporary trip became permanent.

With a Masters Degree in tow, she now teaches first graders at Rodriguez Elementary. She says many of her students are afraid their parents will get deported. One student shared his fears with the whole class.

"Pinky promise you will not repeat this. And he said it twice, he wanted to make sure that they weren't going to go out and tell everybody. He said 'my parents are from Mexico,'" Dominguez said.

Stories like this encouraged Dominguez to give back.  Through DACA forums and clinics, she helps educate the community on Deferred Action and walks people through filling out the applications.

"We take them through all that process. Basically they leave the clinic with a packet ready to send to immigration," Dominguez said.

"What Ms. Dominguez is doing is not only being a recipient of DACA but she's also saying 'How can others benefit from it?  How can I get out there and see that others have good information, they get their paperwork filled out and they have the same opportunity that I've had.'  It's really amazing work," Zarafis said.

32-year-old Dominguez is now married to a U.S. citizen and she hopes to achieve citizenship herself in the near future.

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