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When Jorge Reyes Salinas was 10, his parents cobbled together enough money to leave Peru to start a new life in Los Angeles. They wanted a better future for their only son, who thought he was going to Disneyland.
Reyes Salinas didn’t understand what his lack of legal status meant until, as a sophomore in high school, he was encouraged to enroll in advanced classes at a local community college. The forms asked for a Social Security number, which he did not have.
State support made it possible for him to attend the one university he applied to: Cal State Northridge. Because he couldn’t qualify for any federal financial aid, he went by bus to a machine shop after class each day and worked 30 to 40 hours a week.
In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, allowed young people such as Reyes Salinas — who had come to the U.S. on a tourist visa that expired — to go about their lives, studying and working, without fear of deportation. He immediately got a job on campus, which led him to student government. He went from planning events to being campus student president and a vice president for the statewide California State Student Assn.
Now as the student appointee to the Cal State Board of Trustees, the 24-year-old meets with students at all 23 campuses and lobbies for them in Sacramento, often flying back just in time to make an afternoon class. He hopes to earn his master’s degree in communications in 2018. In his free time, he volunteers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
He took a moment this week to talk about DACA and other issues weighing on the nation’s largest public university system.