Erika Castro knew from a young age that she was different. She was initially rejected from CSN because she didn’t have a Social Security number. She even struggled with depression.
But when she met other DREAMers and realized she wasn’t alone, Erika Castro caught “the activist bug”. Find out how she became such a dedicated and visible activist.
How it all began for Erika
During much of her childhood, Erika Castro felt isolated due to her immigration status. “I was frustrated. I felt alone. I was struggling with depression.”
Castro’s journey became more complicated in high school. “I could be undocumented in my house, but I couldn’t be gay. I could be openly queer in school, but not discuss my status.”
How one event changed Erika’s path in life
Her friend Jose Macias invited her to an immigration reform event hosted by the Culinary Union. “That’s when I learned it was OK to be open about my status.”
Castro met new friends there, such as famed DREAMer activist Astrid Silva. From there, she began an internship with PLAN. In 2015, Castro was hired by PLAN and eventually became their Southern Nevada immigration and environmental justice organizer.
Watch below to learn more about Erika’s story, including the work she now does on immigrant rights and environmental justice.
At a work conference, Castro learned about “all the different layers” of intersectionality, or the interconnected and overlapping nature of various forms of discrimination and injustice. That, and her PLAN internship that focused on mining issues, inspired Erika to focus on the environment. She now organizes for climate justice and pollution solutions in urban communities of color, the areas most at risk of pollution, yet the communities where political pundits have assumed residents care the least about the environment.
For Castro, her work feels more relevant and more needed now than ever before. Even Castro herself felt afraid in the days after Donald Trump’s surprise victory last November. “Right after the election, a lot of people wanted to know how I felt. […] I was afraid of being deported. I felt afraid of losing everything.”
But then, Castro regrouped and decided to work even harder.
“We made it before. We’ll do it again. We have to keep going. My parents have done this for the last 24 years. I can do this for the next 4 years.”
– Erika Castro
Even amidst the challenges of a more hostile White House, Castro noted emerging opportunities in the new wave of progressive activism that’s developed since Trump’s inauguration. “It’s given me the opportunity to build relationships, give resources to other people who were afraid to be involved.”
Castro acknowledged the fear present in many of Nevada’s diverse communities, especially immigrant communities most at risk of deportation raids. Still, she encouraged fellow activists to stay involved. “This is scary. This sucks. But there’s so much we can still do. We have to fight back.”