Erika Andiola: Phoenix, AZ

Leader of Arizona DREAM Coalition who challenged three powerful senators

Erika Andiola is an honors student who enrolled at Arizona State University with dreams of becoming a school counselor. But because she was brought to the U.S. at the age of eleven and does not have legal documentation, she lost her scholarships when Arizona passed laws affecting immigrants. With employers afraid to hire the undocumented, she hasn’t been able to find a job. Considering Arizona’s aggressive push against Latinos in the state, Andiola has every reason to be fearful. But instead, she has taken a stand.

She got involved with Promise Arizona, a grassroots civic engagement organization with a mission to recruit, train and support a new generation of leaders from across the state and register Latinos to vote. She also dedicated herself to championing the DREAM Act . She spent countless hours camped in front of Senator John McCain’s Phoenix office in the summer heat with the “DREAM Army,” supporters who worked tirelessly to educate elected officials on the Act. She knew she might be arrested, and eventually she was.

\On video, Andiola also confronted Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, a national figure behind anti-immigration legislation. Russell was clearly not happy about being surprised. He could have called security and demanded an arrest on the spot. Arrest is frightening for anyone, but as Andiola knows personally, arrest with the possibility of deportation is life-altering, especially for someone so young. Andiola’s single-minded dedication to social justice comes before her personal gain.

Andiola is fearless and articulate on camera, especially when she was interviewed by ABC’s Diane Sawyer and appeared in several You Tube videos. Seen on television in front of McCain’s office, Andiola is visibly exhausted. She had been driving hard for months, flying to DC, working for Promise Arizona, protesting for the Dream Army, motivating people to vote, attending vigils and then hitting the barrios on foot again and again in an effort to register every last eligible voter.

Andiola knows personally that if immigrants are to succeed, more people will have to take more risks, spend more time fighting, and bear the ugly sting of rejection many more times. But as one Arizonan described her, Andiola is a young woman who is both fearless and gently persuasively in her approach. She never tires, never quits. Despite losing her scholarships, Andiola graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. degree in Psychology in spring 2009. She still aspires to work as a school counselor one day – after helping to pass the DREAM Act.

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The Freedom From Fear Awards are produced by Public Interest Projects, (PIP).  PIP is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that brings together and strengthens the work of philanthropic institutions, donors, nonprofit groups and other public interest organizations sharing a vision of a society that ensures justice, dignity and opportunity for all people.   Statements and activities of Freedom from Fear Award winners do not necessarily reflect the views of PIP.

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