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Cindy Nava, senior policy adviser to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The public policy advocate is an example for the Latino community. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.

Cindy Nava: From DACA beneficiary to White House adviser

The immigrant from Mexico, who lived undocumented in the United States for many years, is now part of the Biden Administration.

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Cindy Nava, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico, who was brought to the Albuquerque and Santa Fe area of New Mexico as a child, last month became senior policy adviser to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In addition to her continued and fierce fight for civil rights, along with Nava's activism to expand opportunities for the Latino community, her arrival at the White House is especially notable for being the first time in history that a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) receives a presidential appointment.

“When I was informed that I would be the first one I was just sort of in awe and filled with pride because it’s so much bigger than myself. It’s a win for immigrant communities, it’s a win for New Mexico,” said Nava before officially taking office.

Nava, who for many years lived in the country undocumented, even working without pay in the New Mexico Legislature for 10 years, maintained the immigration status without the knowledge of many, even when she became a political analyst in this state.

In addition to feeling honored by the presidential appointment, Nava will seek from her new position to make a difference for all the people in the nation who live or have lived experiences similar to hers.

Historical Appointment

Through an interview granted to Axios, Nava stressed that this position came after years of insecurities about her immigration status, her accent, and "a nagging feeling of never feeling good enough despite her years of experience.”

Nava pointed out:

I would hope that I get to shed light on those communities that don’t get their voices to be heard at those highest levels. Dream big and go after those goals. When we work together, that’s how we change systems.

Only until last year Nava’s citizenship was granted, after decades of studying in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and rising through the local political ranks. Thanks to the connections made in these years, she managed to work on campaigns for important political figures, such as Senator Ben Ray Lujan.

Nava’s Career 

The new housing advisor, a leader dedicated to changing systems through innovative and culturally competent engagement strategies, is an active public policy advocate, political and educational strategist, and TEDx speaker.

From a very young age, her vocation has been focused on advocating for public policies that expand access and opportunities at the service of marginalized communities.

She became involved in politics right out of high school, and served in the New Mexico House of Representatives representing Democratic legislators. She eventually signed up for DACA and became a U.S. citizen after her marriage.

Nava is recognized for being an advocate for immigrant rights, from her days as a college student, to becoming an active part of boards and service organizations, such as El Centro de La Raza, Youth Development Incorporated, ENLACE NM, and the Mexican American National Association.

New Experience

Through her work with state legislators, Nava learned firsthand about the different housing problems in New Mexico, one of the poorest states in the nation. There she specifically pointed to the Navajo Nation's lack of electricity, and the lack of proper plumbing in some border communities, specific challenges she hopes to address with her policies at HUD.

“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to serve my country in this capacity. HUD is an agency that is responsible for creating and enacting policy that directly impacts the communities I represent and which have played fundamental roles in my success,” stated Nava.

About DACA

DACA is a policy that protects around 800,000 young people known as “DREAMers” who entered the United States illegally as children. The program does not give them official legal status, but it does allow them to apply for a driver's license, a social security number, and a work permit.

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