Wendy Carrillo, from undocumented to running for Congress

Wendy Carrillo, from undocumented to running for Congress
Wendy Carrillo - Photo from www.votewendycarrillo.com

A journalist and civic activist who had been living in the United States illegally is joining the race for California’s 34th Congressional District.

At a time when President-elect Donald Trump made immigration and border control a key part of his campaign and Europe struggles with a migrant crisis, Wendy Carrillo’s story is inspiring and a good example of immigrants’ positive contribution to society.

The 36-year-old Democrat was born in El Salvador and brought to the U.S. by her mother when she was only 5 years old, fleeing the violence of a country at war. After learning she was not legally in the United States at age 13, Carrillo became a U.S. citizen before her 21st birthday.

“I was fortunate while so many others haven’t been” she writes in a Medium post. “I take that blessing very seriously. Before my 21st birthday, I became a citizen and for a few years I was the only voting member in a family of seven.” She adds: “It is the promise of what could be that drives me forward.”

After getting her Master’s Degree in Journalism from University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Carrillo worked as a political reporter and correspondent for various news outlets and organisations. For the past 10 years she has been hosting and producing the weekly program “Knowledge is Power” radio show on Power 106 FM.

She shared her experience in this 2011 short video by Cuéntame, an online collective of short documentary films and interviews that document the lives of U.S. Latinos:

Her personal blog was named “Political Blog of the Year” in 2008 by Hispanic Business Magazine. She was also selected Woman of the Year by California Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero for her work in journalism.


Wendy Carrillo is running to replace Congressman Xavier Becerra after he was appointed California’s next attorney general and assumes his role on January 3, 2017.

After years of informing people Wendy Carrillo now wants to serve and represent them.

She was compelled to run after spending more than a month and a half at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, covering the Standing Rock conflict.  She witnessed the brutal treatment of activists and experienced the effect of tear gas, wondering why politicians hadn’t spoken out. “These questions made me realize the dire need of new leadership to move our country forward” she writes in her statement. “Unapologetically progressive, 100% for the of people. I realized it was time for me to stand up.”

Growing up and living in Boyle Heights, a working-class neighborhood in Los Angeles, Wendy rejects Donald Trump’s stereotypical views of “inner-cities” (which he called hell), and stands by her people:

“I’m here to say that I am the inner-city. We thrive, we live and we are resilient against all odds. We face incredible challenges and find resourceful ways to move forward. We are not criminals or rapists or terrorists or people that don’t have a voice. We are the future of this country and we are taking our rightful place in it.”

As Wendy Carrillo puts it: a movement of people who will fight for the people.

Alia Chebbab @AliaChebbab

UPDATE 29 Dec 2017: A special election for the position of California State Assembly District 51 has been called for December 5, 2017 . Wendy Carrillo, is running for a seat and received the most votes on in the October 3, 2017 special primary election, finishing with 22.2%. 

UPDATE 10 Dec 2017: Wendy Carrillo won the special election in Los Angeles on Tuesday night (05 Dec 2017) and will serve out the term of former assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who was elected to Congress in a special election earlier this year. Carrillo led opponent López 52.83% to 47.17% with a 943-vote margin.

(.borders / B)

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