UCLA Labor Center

Deyanira Cuellar, 2020 IJF Fellow

Publish date: May 7, 2020

Deyanira Cuellar

Fresno Fellow

Host Organization: Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative

Meet Deyanira Cuellar! Deyanira is the Fresno fellow for the 2020 Immigrant Justice Fellowship (IJF), the UCLA Dream Resource Center’s California-wide rapid-response fellowship. The fellowship empowers and defends immigrant communities from mass detention and deportation by creating a partnership between immigrant youth leaders, on-the-ground organizations, and the UCLA Dream Resource Center. Learn more about IJF here.

Deyanira will be hosted by the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC). CVIIC empowers immigrant families, strengthens the capacity of immigrant-serving organizations, and promotes coordination and collaboration that strengthens efforts to create strong, vibrant, and inclusive communities for immigrants. CVIIC is based in Fresno County but serves families from Kern County in the south to San Joaquin County in the north. Learn more about CVIIC on their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Q&A with Deyanira

We asked Deyanira a few questions to get to know her and understand why she is joining the 2020 Immigrant Justice fellowship.

What do you want us and our community to know about you?

“I was originally born in Michoacán, Mexico; however, I have spent most of my life in the Central Valley. Growing up I was always hyperware of my undocumented status, while I didn’t know exactly what it meant at the time, I understood that I could not be open about where I was born. Revealing my status could put myself and my family in danger.

My fears were solidified when my father was deported after a traffic stop, when I was in elementary school. The event led to my passion for helping immigrant communities, regardless of immigration status, understand their rights and get the adequate representation they deserve.

I’ve channeled this passion into my educational and professional experiences. I’ll be a first-generation college graduate this May with a B.A. in Political Science from UC Merced. At UC Merced, I had the opportunity to become an immigration intern at the International Rescue Committee in Turlock, CA. After a few months, I was hired as a caseworker and then promoted to a specialist in the management of a federal grant serving refugees and asylees. My work with the International Rescue Committee solidified my passion for helping our immigrant communities.”

What about the fellowship are you excited about? 

“I’m excited about focusing my work and advocacy in the Central Valley because, having grown up in the region, I know that the Central Valley community is often neglected. We lack an abundance of resources especially for immigrant communities, that is why I want to focus my work and advocacy in the Central Valley for the rest of my life.

I’m also excited about getting to know my communities even more and helping them get adequate access to information, resources, and services they need. For example, many Central Valley communities and families lack access to mental health services. I’m excited about expanding their access to these kinds of services.”

What drives you?

“My biggest inspiration is my mom, who has been a single parent for most of my life. Whenever I need inspiration, I look to her and think of all the sacrifices she made for my education to be possible. My mom has instilled in me many important values like sharing everything I have, even if it is not that much. My younger siblings are also an inspiration for me. I’ve been able to guide them and hope to continue to be a good role model for them.”

What are your hobbies or what makes you YOU?

“In my free time, I love being able to spend time with my family. My mom has 14 siblings who we try and get together with weekly. It provides me so much comfort to just laugh and talk over a carne asada with them. I also enjoy going out with friends and just always having a good time. I am also always down to binge watch any series on Netflix like HTGAWM or Jane the Virgin.”