Undocumented Student Activist
Brazilian Women's Group Youth Leadership Award, 2012
Brazilian Magazine’s Hero Award recipient, 2010
Guest Speaker for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation- UK with presentations in England and Scotland.
Work and story featured in The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, The Rachel Maddow, CNN.com, BBC Americana, The Boston Globe, and TV Globo
By: Frank Morris
Undocumented, but lawfully present. That’s one way of describing Renata Teodoro’s status here in the United States.
The 29-year-old Boston resident has been living in the U.S. since she was 6 years old, and ever since — like so many in her situation — she’s been living in the proverbial shadows.
“My parents came to the United States because it was very difficult to find jobs in Brazil. They never had the opportunity to go to college or even finish high school. They wanted a better life for us,” Teodoro said.
In 2001, her father filed for political asylum and tried to get sponsorship. Then the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened and he was denied and forced to return to Brazil.
In 2007, U.S. immigration officials showed up unannounced to her family’s Brockton home. “My brother came home from a construction job and was immediately detained,” Teodoro recalled. He was released after two months, and he, along with their mother and sister all returned to Brazil that year.
As for Teodoro, “I decided to stay,” she said.
She relocated to Boston to be near school and public transportation. She is now an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts Boston and works in the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She has become a prominent voice as an activist in the immigration rights movement.
Among her accomplishments: She helped establish the national network, United We Dream; acted as the Massachusetts state lead at the White House in advocating for the Dream Act; fought for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action by President Barack Obama; established a new scholarship at her college and worked with the administration to ensure access to existing scholarships for students who are lawfully present. At present, she heads the UMass Boston Student Immigrant Movement and serves on the Women’s Pipeline for Change board of directors.
As for her goals, Teodoro says right now she just wants to graduate, continue educating herself on public policy, and keep fighting the immigration fight.
"What keeps me motivated is how far I’ve come. Whenever I’m having a really hard day, I always think about how much harder my life was several years ago with my family being deported, not having enough money to buy groceries, not knowing if I was going to be able to pay rent,” she said.
“I think back on those moments and I think I’m not there anymore. I've moved so much further in my life and have accomplished so many things,” Teodoro went on. “I also think about my family and how much my parents sacrificed for me and wanted me to succeed. And having a community that's been so supportive and understands and has been through similar circumstances — that’s what gets me through the really tough days."