Phoenix, AZ – Salvador Macias is an immigration attorney with the Law Offices of Daniel Rodriguez, and a College Success Arizona alumnus, who is helping people navigate America’s complicated, controversial, and often-changing immigration system.
Salvador explains, “My day-to-day work comes with some pretty big highs and some pretty low-lows. At moments, we’re helping individuals fill out their immigration petitions, to petition for a relative, a spouse, a child – hoping to get their citizenship, and those are always really rewarding moments. Unfortunately, it also comes with a downside which is a family member who came to our office and doesn’t know, hasn’t heard of her husband’s status, and is wondering if he’s detained or if they’re in deportation proceedings. So, we do all that we can, to not only try to get them out on bond, but also helping in the immigration case and seeing if there is any relief possible for their family member.”
Salvador, age 27, was born in Mexico, but he has lived in Phoenix since the age of four, and he graduated from North High School in 2009. Salvador went on to earn two Bachelor degrees at Arizona State University before graduating with his law degree from ASU’s prestigious Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in May, 2017. In fact, Salvador was chosen to represent his class at the May, 2017 Convocation.
Salvador is among the hundreds of high-potential students who have earned scholarships from College Success Arizona, “It was monumental. I can honestly say that I would not be here if it wasn’t for College Success Arizona. I remember applying to the program, and hearing about the program from one of my mentors. I remember at that time, I had applied to eight different schools and unfortunately did not have enough funding to cover any one of those institutions, including ASU. I remember being Student Body President at North High School and being one of the first people to walk on stage (at graduation), and when they gave me my diploma I can honestly say that I had no idea where my future was. I had pictured a moment where I was going to go to California, work landscaping with my uncle, and maybe go to community college. But, the day after my graduation I got a letter in the mail from College Success saying that I had a full ride (scholarship), and that changed everything for me. If not for the scholarship, I probably would not have gone to Arizona State, and my life would be on a completely different path.”
Beyond financial support, the College Success Arizona scholarship provides students with a “Success Adviser” who mentors them through college. Marjorie DeRubeis, College Success Arizona’s Director of Success Services, was Salvador’s Success Adviser, “She always checked and made sure that I was doing fine, and always answered any questions that I had. Her support was crucial, because at that time, I was the first in my family to attend college. So, I needed to speak to someone who actually understood the college process, because my parents always supported me, but to them, college was this mythical land that I would go to every morning. But, with my mentors I was able to talk to them about my midterms and my finals (exams) and get an answer and guidance for any question that I had about ASU.”
As is the case for many college students, family support can be critical:
“My mom always told me, considering my immigration status, she always told me, ‘If one day you want to be American, you have to do well in school.” And, that was the thing that motivated me starting from preschool and onward. Thankfully, it kept me motivated and got my grades up, and even once I started college and my parents didn’t understand it (college), they still made it a point to encourage me and tell me how proud they were, and they helped me out in any way they could.”
Meanwhile, practicing immigration law means that attorneys need to keep up with the changes to policy, “Every day, I am constantly listening to the news as I am working, because we live in a culture right now where things shouldn’t be shifting so quickly in terms of laws, but an Executive Order is being done here, and a possible resolution is being done there. We have to be constantly aware, because our clients expect us to be on top of it. It also directly affects me personally, because I still don’t have permanent residency status – I am a Dreamer, I have DACA status, so, at any given time I’m trying to be prepared for my clients but I’m also preparing for myself.”
Salvador adds that immigration law rewards and challenges its practitioners with more than money, “I realized that this is something that I need to do, not only for myself, but for my community. Not against America, but on the contrary – I think that a lot of immigrants are Americans in heart. They may not be (Americans) on paper yet, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not contributing to the story that America is telling. I think growing up, we always romanticize these positions and think, ‘Oh, I’m an attorney and I’m going to be making pretty good money,’ and some of my classmates really are (making good money). But, I know the demographics of the people that we serve, and they are barely making ends meet. They are individuals, who by definition, are living paycheck to paycheck, and it’s tough because we have to strike a balance between being paid for our services adequately, and at the same time understanding that our clients have limited budgets.”
Salvador has some advice for middle and high school students considering college, “Don’t give up. And, I know that sounds cliché, but everyone in the world will be telling you about all of these boundaries, and all of these issues that are going to come and head your way, and all of this negativity. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I was told, “You’re not going to go to college because of who you are.” And, now I’m the one speaking to those same individuals because now they’re reaching out to me for legal advice, or they’re reaching out to me for advice on how to get into college. So, please don’t give up.”
And the best part of college, “It’s the people that you meet. My colleagues, my peers in classes – they’re now professionals and I feel like I have this connection and this web of communication with individuals that are making a difference in Phoenix. It means the world to me to have people who I can reach out to if I need help buying a home, if I need help doing my taxes, if I need to speak to someone who works with the police department – I have those connections, because of the individuals that I met in college.”
Beyond the law, Salvador is married and is an expectant father.
Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income circumstances, your tax-deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this, and every page on our website.