By Alfonso Chardy
Julissa Arce was once a rising star in Wall Street, selling investment products to wealthy people from a desk at Goldman Sachs. But the secret she could share with no one gnawed at her.
She was an undocumented immigrant who could not travel to see clients beyond U.S. borders because her papers were fake. She was a driven stock broker, with a bright future in the investment world, but she was not happy despite the large amounts of money she was making. That’s because Arce lived in constant fear of being discovered, detained and deported to her native Mexico.
How Arce, 31, became an undocumented immigrant, soared to the rarefied levels of Wall Street high finance and then stepped forward to reveal her story was recently the subject of a lengthy Bloomberg Business article. Now, Arce is traveling around the country talking to other journalists as part of a campaign to change how America views foreign nationals who have no papers. She was in Miami last week.
“We want to achieve a change in American culture as to how we speak of and how we treat immigrants,” she said.
Arce has joined forces with Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist from the Philippines whose case caused a sensation in 2011 when he revealed he was an undocumented immigrant.
Arce is now development director of Define American, a group founded by Vargas to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants and reshape their image. One of its key campaigns is to convince news media outlets to call these foreign nationals undocumented immigrants instead of illegal aliens.
“If there is a cultural change, then there will be an environment in which immigration reform can pass [in Congress],” she said. “When we talk about immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, we always talk about them in political terms or statistical terms but never as human beings. We do not assign to them a human face, people with dreams, aspiration and ambitions and this is our goal.”