Isabel Castillo, who holds a ’07 degree in social work from Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), is recognized in the November issue of The Atlantic as one of the “21 brave thinkers of 2011.”
Castillo’s life was summarized in magazine by Jose Antonio Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter who identified himself as an undocumented immigrant to the United States, like Castillo.
“Isabel Castillo was 6 years old when she was smuggled across the Mexican border,” Vargas wrote. “While her parents picked apples and the family sold tacos out of their home in the Shenandoah Valley, Isabel dreamed big — but only so big. After all, she did not have a Social Security number.
“Unable to apply for financial aid, she worked for a year, off the books, to save money for college. After graduating magna cum laude from Eastern Mennonite University in 2007, she was unable to legally find a job.”
Vargas praised Castillo for refusing to fearfully hide in the shadows and for pressing Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell in a public meeting to endorse the DREAM Act. This act would give undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children a path to legal residency.
Since the summer of 2010, Castillo has become a national leader as a highly public advocate for undocumented immigrants. She was the 2011 commencement speaker at the University of San Francisco, which conferred an honorary doctorate on her. She was featured in a Feb. 20, 2011, New York Times article, “Dream Act Advocate Turns Failure into Hope” and on Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language content producer in the world.
Recently Harvard Divinity School chose Castillo to be one of 40 invitees to its 2011 Diversity and Explorations Program to be held Nov. 8-10, 2011. Castillo’s invitational letter cited her “combination of academics and interests in social justice and diversity, as well as [her] desire to explore connections with graduate studies in theology, religion, or ministry.”