Candelario Saldana is a leader who is making strides and causing a few waves at the University of Miami for LGBT lawyers.
Saldana’s mother brought him to America from Mexico when he was one year and nine months old.
“I didn’t realize I was any different from anybody until I was in middle school- there was school report about what type of career you would like to pursue and we started to have a discussion - I wanted to become a lawyer. I would be able to get my mom out of poverty.”
Saldana didn’t realize he was undocumented until middle school. He went home to tell his mother that he decided that he would pursue a career in law and then the harsh reality of his undocumented status was revealed to him.
“Son, sit down, never let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your dream however…”
Then Saldana’s mother informed him that he wouldn’t be able to attend a university, nor travel outside of the United States, and that he wouldn’t be able to do all the things that his friends are going to do because of his undocumented status.
Upon discovering his status, he decided to reach out to his counselor at school, however they had no idea how to proceed. He then kept his status hidden until he was a senior in high school where he once again asked a school counselor for help.
Under threat of being reported and the very real possibility of being deported to Mexico by immigration authorities, Candelario did not register for selective services when applying for colleges. Law schools are not allowed to offer federal financial aid. He was forced to put his dream on hold for six years.
“I really wanted to continue my education, I really wanted to pursue the dream. I attended a conference at the University of Utah and fortunately was able to connect with someone who was able to help me continue on with my education and here I am today.”
He is currently attending the University of Miami School of Law and is graduating in 2019.
When asked about how the current administration is demonizing the immigrant population of the United States, Saldana looked slightly wistful and furrowed his brows before he spoke.
“I was watching Fahrenheit 11/9 the other day and there were [excerpts] where Trump was saying that Mexico doesn’t send its best people, they send people with problems, they’re rapists, that does continue to affect me. I am trying to do the best that I possibly can and to continue to better myself and to help others who are LGBTQ or undocumented individuals.”
He continued: “I guess it’s about being a role model. You can put your dream on pause but don’t ever give up on it. I put my dream on pause for six years, I wanted to go to law school. And when the opportunity came, I took it! And now I am joining one of the biggest law firms in the country, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. And [my story] can give people hope. Just don’t give up.”