Normandale Latino Student Advocate Javier Salisas Vega

"You have to be out there, you have to ask questions, you need to be an advocate for yourself and use a network for support," says Javier Salinas Vega, Latino Student Advocate at Normandale. 

Javier is a first-generation college graduate, who comes from Villa Bernal Queretaro in central Mexico. He laughs as he says Bernal means big rock in Arabic (Vernal) in the middle of nowhere, which is how he describes his hometown. It is evident that Javier is very proud of both his roots and his wings. 

A big part of Javier's foundation is his Grandmother Mamá Jose. Javier was born into a large family and was raised primarily by her. His grandmother didn't know how to read or write but she always had enough. She never struggled and taught Javier from an early age the understanding of how to be a hard worker. 

Going on to college was not a concept he grew up with, and after graduating high school he went to work in a clothing factory full time. In 2000, when jobs left Mexico for other countries, Javier did what his family had long been doing and immigrated to Minnesota. In 2000, he was happily reunited with cousins, aunts and uncles who have a rich 40 years of long history and home in Minnesota. 

When he got to the United States, Javier got a job working in a produce store and his supervisor told him he could work as long as he went to school and learned English. This opened many doors for Javier. As a first-generation student, he had a lot of questions and it proved invaluable to his experience that he asked them. 

Javier wants you to know you don't need to be scared to ask questions, and by doing so you will create a network that will help you in many ways throughout your journey. He learned quickly and in 2002 he was hired by the very high school he was attending as a student. 

Through this job Javier gained access to community college. At the time there were not opportunities for students who were undocumented, so he advocated for himself. Javier wrote letters to several community colleges and he heard back from Minneapolis Community Technical College. He started right away working on improving his English and reading through English as Second Language courses. 

In 2006, the high school he worked at closed, and he no longer had a job. Without a social security card his whole livelihood was on the line. Once again Javier advocated for himself. When several meetings with lawyers did not provide him a path to adjust his status, Javier began to do his own research and network with other Latinx families from all over the United States.  

He was dating his current wife at the time and learned that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offered a way to adjust status. The I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility was a pathway Javier could take. In the early spring 2008, he bought a one-way ticket back to Mexico not knowing if he would be allowed to return. 

After a lot of paperwork, which Javier meticulously studied, organized and submitted, and a couple interviews he was given his nonimmigrant visa. When he returned to the United States in early winter, he started the following fall to complete his generals and transferred to the University of Minnesota. Javier graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2012 with his undergraduate degree in economics with a minor in Spanish and Portuguese. After spending time and money submitting many forms and documents, he gained his citizenship and naturalization in 2013.

This way to U.S. citizenship is granted to a lawful permanent resident after meeting the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Javier now does for a living what he has done for himself his whole life, advocate. Normandale is lucky to have him on campus advocating for Latino students.