How do we fix the system in the short term? In the short term, and this is not part of the comprehensive immigration reform, there are things we can do to alleviate some of the struggle and the pain and the real-life consequences in people’s lives right now. The first is that the Supreme Court should rule in favor of DAPA [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA], which will prevent 5 million people from being deported. [Oral arguments in the DAPA case—United States v. Texas—began Monday, and the Supreme Court is divided along ideological lines.] It will give them a work permit. It will allow them to at least not have to be scared every day. In many states, it will also allow them to get driver’s licenses. At the state and local level, that’s where we have made the most progress. In-state tuition for Dreamers has been a huge thing. That’s the reason why I am talking to you today. In Texas, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants was the reality in 2001. Fifteen years ago, Texas became the first state to allow that to happen. And Texas did not just provide in-state tuition but also provided in-state financial aid. Those things need to happen and should continue to happen while we figure out how to overhaul the whole system. Regarding immigration and immigration rights, what message, guidance or advice would you give to candidates running for president in the United States and all American politicians in general? My advice would be to encourage people to stop viewing immigration as an issue that is causing all of the problems in America. The national debt and unemployment and terrorism—everything—you can point to immigration as the culprit. That could not be farther from the truth. I think it is distracting us from asking the real questions about how do we fix all of the other problems, the real problems, in our country. When it comes to dealing with immigration itself, we have to view it from a lens and from a viewpoint that these are people we are speaking about. These are real people, not just numbers, but people. Lastly, we have to make plans that are realistic, that we will be able to act on. Our community is tired of all these promises that aren’t delivered on. I can go back many presidents who have said they support immigration reform. It’s 2016, and nothing has happened. I have been in this country now for 22 years, and I am still waiting on immigration reform. I was able to adjust my status because I was married to a U.S. citizen, but short of that, I would still be undocumented. Do you feel that anti-immigrant rhetoric and racism have increased? If so, what message do you have for Americans who are anti-immigrant? Yes, I do think the anti-immigrant sentiment is growing and much more vocal. However, the reason you see Donald Trump so far ahead in the polls—with all of his supporters—isn’t because he is saying anything new. They already speak the way he speaks. That sentiment already existed in our country. He has just given them a platform and made it OK to say some of the things that he’s said. Maybe it was a little dormant, but that sentiment already existed. He has just become the embodiment of that ideology. The anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment is an ideology that is based on racism. There’s no way around it. Like I said, even if you look at the quotas at who gets to come here, and you look at the countries, it is based on race. How do we make people more tolerant and understanding of different cultures, perspectives and races? You have to talk to people who don’t think like you. If all we are ever doing is speaking with each other, how are we going to reach people on the other side of the issue? The best way to combat that is to have an open dialogue with the other side. Sometimes that is difficult, because you can’t even sit at the same table without things getting superheated, especially now with the Donald Trump phenomenon. You see what happens at his rallies. It starts to become a really hostile environment in which you can’t even have a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you. But I still believe that we can make change. We can continue to contextualize these issues in human terms and speak to people of humanity. If we do that, if we keep finding the common ground of what connects us as people and humans, then we will be able to make a change. You have a new book, “My (Underground) American Dream,” set to be released in September. What did you learn by writing the book? What do you hope people learn by reading the book? The practice of writing the book was very therapeutic. I had a really great co-writer [Mark Dagostino] that elevated my writing to the next level and challenged me a lot and noted the things I needed to bring out in the book. My biggest lesson in writing the book is that you’ve got to be vulnerable, raw and honest if you are going to connect with people. You’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there and leave everything on those pages if you are going to connect with people in a genuine way. The book is about what are the costs of the American dream for someone like myself, for someone who is a woman, who is a person of color, who is undocumented. What does it really cost to pursue this dream? How much pain and suffering and sacrifice does someone have to go through to pursue these dreams? When people read the book, they can connect with it on that human level of even beyond immigration status, the heartbreak, the human emotions that we all have that people can connect with. So people can really understand why immigrants come here. We are not here to take anything away from anyone. On the contrary, we are here to give of ourselves and our talents to this country to make it better. What are you working on now? The rights to my book were optioned to America Ferrera’s production company, so I am working with America to turn the book into a TV series, which I’m very excited about. Not just because it’s my book, but I’m just excited for there to be a show on television where the lead is a Latina woman who is just kicking ass on Wall Street. Being able to have more diversity on television that portrays that in a more powerful way where we are not playing traditional roles that Hollywood has Latinas and Latinos play all of the time. We are in the early stages of working on it. Your support matters…

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