Isabel Castillo Profiled in NYT

Brent Finnegan -- February 21st, 2011

Harrisonburg DREAM Act-ivist Isabel Castillo was profiled in a feature in Monday’s edition of the New York Times.

Regular hburgnews readers should recognize the name from several stories published here in 2010. Castillo entered the U.S. illegally with her parents when she was six years old, and grew up in Harrisonburg.

The NYT story by reporter Michael Winerip focuses on Castillo’s life after publicly coming out as an unauthorized immigrant. Although the DREAM Act died in the U.S. Senate, she’s been busy continuing her fight to provide children of unauthorized immigrants a path to citizenship, and a shot at a college education in the U.S.

Because of her Dream Act fame, she is much in demand and has to organize her work schedule around public appearances. Last Monday, she spoke to the women’s Bible study group at Asbury United Methodist Church; Tuesday she delivered a speech at James Madison University; Wednesday she testified in Richmond before a State Senate subcommittee; Thursday she addressed a luncheon group at the Winchester Rotary Club.

Thanks to hburgnews reader Andrea for bringing this story to our attention.

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36 Responses to “Isabel Castillo Profiled in NYT”

  1. Renee says:

    Brent, you should also share with the readers that you and hburgnews were mentioned by name and linked in the NYT article also. Congrats :)

    “She may have received more media coverage than anyone else in Harrisonburg (population 45,000) that year. She was interviewed by everyone from Brent Finnegan of to the public radio host Bob Edwards.”

  2. Ashley says:

    This is a wonderful piece on a critical topic.

  3. Holly says:

    Read it this morning. I am inspired and challenged by her bravery and tenacity. Isabel, you are doing right!

    Congrats also to Brent and hburgnews for the NYT name-check!

    • Yep, nothing like violating the law — as she was convicted of — in an attempt to become a citizen of our Republic.

      BTW, since she legally can’t work in our country, how is it she’s working as a waitress? It would seem to me that both she, and her employers (as well as past employers) have consistently violated the law to employ her…wait, this appears to be more violations of the law….that can’t be right because I know all who read this publication stand for the rule of law, right?

      • Jeremy Aldrich says:

        Dave, would you have supported the rule of law at the time of the Intolerable Acts, the Fugitive Slave Act, or during the Jim Crow era? Would you have, for example, turned in any escaping slaves you encountered rather than aiding them in their escape, which would have been adding crime to crime?

  4. Ray says:

    Love to chat with her employer. Employer sponsored Permanent Residency Opportunity, I do this for people like her and employers, how can I help her and many that are in this situation?? Contact me you have my e mail.. Ray

  5. I don’t know, Jeremy. I didn’t live then, but I do live now and recognize the need for secured borders and recognize the real and potential threat of those who are within our borders who are here without being legally present.

    All I’m seeing from Isabel, is a willingness to disobey the present law(s) of the Republic she so much wants to become a citizen of.

    • What would you have her do? And don’t say, “Go back to her country and come the legal way”, because there is not a snowball’s chance in hell she’d qualify for any of the visa categories leading to citizenship: she’s a Central American with a bachelor’s degree in social work and no special skills whose parents aren’t citizens.

      Nice duck and dodge on “rule of law”, though. You want to bring it up, but you don’t want to talk about it – justice is more important than individual laws, and laws should be made to serve society, not vice versa. We have many examples of bad laws in US history which were broken by honorable people acting righteously. By the way, Isabel is no threat to you, I’m sure.

      • So it would seem to me that if it’s a “bad law” she, as someone aggrieved by the law, would have standing to challenge the law in a court of competent jurisdiction (i.e., the federal District Court here in Virginia).

        On what basis is the bad, Jeremy?

        Does it run afoul of the Constitution of the United States?

        Did Congress lack the authority to make the law(s) she has/is violating?

        Laws aren’t bad solely because they’re “unfair”.

        And while Isabel is high profile, this conversation can’t just be limited to her…it’s her multiplied by millions.

        Our country has immigration laws so we can control the numbers of those from outside the country from coming in and taking this country over. She violated the law by illegally penetrating our border…she appears to be currently violating the laws, with an employer’s aid, regarding illegal aliens working here.

        You’re for a porous border, Jeremy, I get that. Your desires, however, conflict with the current laws of the United States.

        And I’m all for challenging and violating “bad laws”…has she done so in a court? Maybe that should be her next attempt. We have at least a couple of sympathetic immigration attorneys here in town that would aid her in that endeavor, I’m sure.

        • Jeremy Aldrich says:

          I don’t want this to get too far away from the topic, but here are my answers to your questions:

          “Does it run afoul of the Constitution of the United States?”
          Yes, immigration control is not mentioned in the Constitution, even though the process of becoming a citizen is. And as we have established in other discussions, most founders did not believe it was within the power of the federal government to restrict immigration (see Madison and Jefferson’s Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions). That’s why for more than half of our country’s history immigration wasn’t regulated in any meaningful way – and yet we still managed to be a sovereign nation.

          “Did Congress lack the authority to make the law(s) she has/is violating?”
          Did Congress lack the authority to regulate the treatment of fugitive slaves? Native Americans? Lack of legal authority and lack of moral authority are quite different things.

          “Laws aren’t bad solely because they’re “unfair”.”
          Correct, but unfair laws are bad.

          Now, could you answer my question? What would you have Isabel do?

          • Randy King says:

            I would have Isabel do exactly what my great grandparents did when they were denied residency in the 30’s:

            1) Seek residency in a neighboring nation with their (6) and (7) year old daughters

            2) Reapply

            3) Wait their turn

            There are (5) billion people on the planet that live in much worse conditions then those from South America; do you propose we give unrestricted access to them as well?

            Support of illegal immigration is a slap in the face to my family; and I take offense…

          • Randy, thanks for your answer. Isabel grew up here. Her whole life is here. And as I said, her chances of leaving and coming back legally are next to nothing (barring a direct job offer in a field for which no suitable Americans can be found).

            Could you tell us more about your great-grandparents? Why were they denied residency in the 30’s, and where did they go instead while they waited? Why did THAT country let them in? How long did they have to wait?

            To answer your question, I don’t believe that returning our immigration policies to what made our country great will result in all of the world’s people coming to live here. It would probably increase immigration somewhat but not on the scale some seem to think. Consider, for example, what people predicted would happen when people could easily move from Eastern European countries to Western European countries – some did, but the net effect was positive for all economies involved. I question the source of your statistic: “5 billion… in much worse conditions than those from [Isabel’s home country, which isn’t in South American anyway]”.

            Supporting keeping peaceful immigration illegal is a slap in the face to my family, who came without papers (none required) in the 1600’s (English, Dutch, and French immigrants to New England and New York) and 1800’s (Irish immigrants). Two can play the pretend offense game. :-)

          • R. King says:


            My Great Grandfather had a job in the U.S. with a sponsored employer, but the numbers did not add up so they were refused permanent residency. They applied for and received permission to immigrate to Canada where they waited ten years for their opportunity to immigrate legally to the U.S.

            My Grandmother was seven years old and she remembers it all like it was yesterday. At no time did my Grandparents ask for special consideration, nor did her parents leave their daughters future in the hands of a nation that was not prepared to take them in.

            Charity is something that is offered; it is not something that you claim as your right.

  6. Christa says:

    She was SIX years old when she was brought here! Has anyone forgotten this simple bit of information? Where do you deport her to? A country she does not remember? THIS is her home and she should be allowed to remain here.

    • Emmy says:

      Where’s that LIKE button!!!!!

    • How would you all feel if these aggrieved “children” were given legal status to remain in the United States with such a status to be able to be educated, and to work…but neither they, nor their offspring, would ever become eligible for U.S. Citizenship?

      • seth says:

        don’t bring the europeans into this,
        everyone knows that the only thing they’ve gotten right is single payer health care

  7. Emmy says:

    Dave if this woman never becomes a citizen I truly do not care. She’s a smart, contributing member of our society. That’s more than I can say for a whole lot of citizens.

  8. I merely postulated a possible solution…I’ve met Isabel previously…at a Republican “First Friday” event when she and Rick were in attendance.

    I think a large part of this issue is whenever advocates attempt to explain what is in the DREAM Act, it most nearly always differs from what’s actually in there.

  9. Several people asked where the “like” button was, so I added one as an experiment. Let’s see if/how it works, and if we like it (pun intended).

    If you know of WordPress comment plugins we should be using (such as Facebook integration) tell us.

    • Christa says:

      Too bad you can’t “see” who “liked” it. I know, I know, I just need to be happy with this. :) Thanks Brent!

  10. nicklaus combs says:

    dave – why don’t you go for the citizen’s arrest?

  11. Aunt Pat says:

    Congrats on the NYT mention, Brent. Out here on the left coast in Seattle the immigration issue just gets more confusing to me. Waiting your turn may work if you are from a country with a low number of immigrants, but if you are trying to immigrate from places like Mexico or the Phillipines, Isabel could be an old woman before she rises to the top of a list. When large numbers were coming from Europe or Scandinavia, there weren’t quotas.

  12. Postgraduado says:

    Thank you for publishing this story and congratulations on your NYTimes mention. I would like to thank you on behalf of the thousands of students who live and thrive in the U.S., pursuing a better future despite their legal status. Everyday heroes like Isabel Castillo are worth every opportunity they have because of their hard work and commitment.

    Your piece enhances their story of struggle, putting a face on a topic many seem to forget deals with humanity.

    Keep up the great work, leading a discussion on a critical subject affecting thousands in our society.



  13. cook says:

    Note: This is off-topic; I just put this in the most recent post under the Immigration tab.

    I recently ran across this item on the USCIS (Immigration) website. All immigrants in the US required to notify Immigration of a change of address are now required – as of March 15 – to file the change of address form in Harrisonburg.

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