Another year, another unforgettable first for Luis Balderas-Villagrana, a 2016 Powder Valley High School graduate.

Balderas-Villagrana, a sophomore at Portland State University, was elected student body president earlier this month and will take office June 1. The sophomore’s election is drawing statewide attention because he is the first undocumented student body president in PSU’s history. In 2017, he was also the first such student to serve in PSU’s student government.

The PSU sophomore campaigned on a slogan of “Dare to Dream,” because he is a “Dreamer,” a student in the United States on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Barack Obama signed into law via an executive order in 2012.

Like many other undocumented youths and young adults, Balderas-Villagrana is haunted by the tenuous status of DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants from deportation. President Donald Trump wants to eliminate DACA and has asked Congress to come up with an alternative. So far Trump has not been pleased with any of the alternatives proposed by Congress.

Balderas-Villagrana, who came to the United States 14 years ago with his family from central Mexico when he was seven, hopes the debate over DACA will continue so it can be saved or that a viable alternative can be developed.

“I want to give DACA a higher profile (because) I feel it is dying (as an issue) on the national level,” he said in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting. “I want to work to keep the conversation going. By being elected I am being empowered to do that.”

He said DACA students are no different than anyone else.

“I want to take away the stigma,” Balderas-Villagrana said in a phone interview with The Observer.

The possibility that the DACA program will be terminated and replaced by one in which he would not be able to remain in the United States weighs heavily on Balderas-Villagrana.

See complete story in Monday's Observer

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