By Corinne Murdock |
Karina Ruiz de Diaz, an illegal immigrant who qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and is hedging on President Joe Biden’s promise of a pathway to citizenship, petitioned to end a bill prohibiting illegal immigrants from voting, HB2492. As AZ Free News reported last week, the House Government and Elections Committee passed the bill.
“[This bill] is threatening my ability as #DACA and the ability of #immigrants in AZ to help those eligible citizens to register to #VOTE,” wrote Ruiz de Diaz.
Ruiz de Diaz was among the group of individuals who filmed themselves following Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) into a bathroom last October over her refusal to answer whether she’d support President Joe Biden’s reconciliation bill. Later on the same day of that incident, Ruiz de Diaz confronted Sinema on her plane ride back to D.C. It appears, however, that Ruiz de Diaz didn’t have to worry about her voting rights during the 2020 election: she revealed that her son voted for Biden.
“I am a DACA recipient from Arizona who volunteered to help elect Sen. Sinema. I asked her to follow through on her promises to immigrants in Arizona and support citizenship through reconciliation,” stated Ruiz. “My son voted for President Biden and his Build Back Better agenda. He voted for bold action from democrats to protect immigrants.”
In January, police dismissed their investigation into the activists who followed Sinema. Law enforcement said that Sinema went into the bathroom with knowledge that it was illegal to film another in the bathroom, citing Sinema’s comments in the initial police report. Arrests can jeopardize an individual’s DACA status.
According to an Arizona Republic profile on Ruiz de Diaz’s family, which included details of their illegal border crossing, Ruiz de Diaz came to Arizona from Mexico in 1999 at around 14 years old. She fled with her father, Mauro Santiago Ruiz Barrita, and her mother, Virginia Ruiz Barrita, after her father claimed he was attacked at gunpoint in their hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico. Arizona Republic reporter Megan Taros featured the story of Ruiz de Diaz’s family last March as part of a story on Ruiz Barrita’s death at 74 from COVID-19 in “Loved and Not Forgotten: Phoenix and Scottsdale Area,” part of the outlet’s series, “100 Stories.”
Ruiz de Diaz supplemented the content for the profile on her father, noting that he was saddened he couldn’t return to Mexico to see his dying mother three years ago. She added that her father would often say about America: “Even if the cage is made of gold it is still a prison,” in Spanish.
“His heart was broken between the U.S. and Mexico,” said Ruiz de Diaz in the interview.
Due to being an illegal immigrant, Ruiz de Diaz told CNN that it took over a decade to earn a biochemistry degree from Arizona State University (ASU).
“I have felt voiceless because in Arizona voters passed a law that says I have to show proof of legal residency for in-state tuition. Because of that law, it took me 12 years to graduate from college with a bachelor of science in biochemistry that I’m not using right now. I’m not working in my field because I have to be fighting this fight. My life and the lives of people like myself who qualified for DACA, and people who did not, were on the line the last four years. This fight took priority,” said Ruiz de Diaz. “I dream of going back to my field one day. I want to teach science. I want to do research. When I’m a citizen I could go back to doing that, knowing I have grown leaders in the community who can carry on the work of the nonprofit.”
Currently, Ruiz de Diaz serves as the executive director of Arizona Dream Act Coalition (ADAC), a nonprofit that advocates for illegal immigrants’ unfettered access to work, housing, and education. Ruiz de Diaz told CNN in the same interview that she’s helped thousands of people register to vote over the years; her desire to vote served as one main reason she supported Biden.
“The first thing that I would do is register to vote. I have helped so many people register to vote in the last five years, I lost count. It’s more than 1,000 or 2,000 people, because I wanted them to be a voice for me. I wanted them to understand the power that they have in deciding who represents them,” said Ruiz de Diaz.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.