A Dallas immigration lawyer known for her vigorous defense of immigrants will become a senior adviser to the nation’s top cop on immigration enforcement.

A Dallas immigration lawyer known for her vigorous defense of immigrants will become a senior adviser to the nation’s top cop on immigration enforcement.


Liz Cedillo-Pereira, 44, will join the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is headed by former Dallas U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña.


Cedillo-Pereira, a Dallas native, is well-known in the immigration bar for championing initiatives aimed at young immigrants who call themselves "dreamers" and educating families about the 2012 program that defers certain deportations for those brought here as children.


The state of Texas leads litigation suing the federal government over the 2014 expansion of the program.


Cedillo-Pereira is a 1999 graduate of Southern Methodist University School of Law. Saldaña also graduated from SMU law school, in 1984, and served as U.S. attorney for the Dallas-based Northern Judicial District of Texas. Both are daughters of construction workers.


Cedillo-Pereira was an early admirer of Saldaña. In 2011, Cedillo-Pereira penned a Dallas Morning News opinion essay, nominating Saldaña as Texan of the Year. She wrote, "Her life story exemplifies courage, stamina and grace and serves as an inspiration of what can be achieved."


Cedillo-Pereira described herself as a fourth-generation Mexican-American in an interview with KERA-TV on trailblazers. Her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Latin American studies comes from the University of Pennsylvania. Before heading her own law firm in Irving, she also worked for Catholic Charities of Dallas and at a law firm in the Rio Grande Valley.


Challenges are huge within ICE, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Late last year, Saldaña took over the reins of the controversial federal agency and its $6 billion budget.


The largest portion of that budget is dedicated to removing immigrants. Moreover, ICE suffers from morale issues. ICE tied for last among 314 agencies on a list of best federal workplaces, according to a report by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.


The U.S. has an estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center. The 2014 Obama initiative would have deferred deportations for as many as 5 million people.


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