Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Liberty for All' online comic strip makes rounds as DREAM Act moves toward vote

Libertad, the heroine of Julio Salgado's
Libertad, the heroine of Julio Salgado's "Liberty for All" comic strip
Art courtesy of Julio Salgado

An online comic strip about an undocumented college graduate named Libertad, nicknamed Liberty, has achieved unexpected notoriety in recent weeks, with art from the comic circulated on Facebook and on fliers distributed by supporters of the DREAM Act.

"Liberty for All" follows the story of Liberty, a young woman who arrived with her family illegally as a child, has finished college, but can't get a regular job because of her status. She finds herself working for her aunt doing housekeeping, a maid with a college degree.

The strip is the work of Julio Salgado, a Cal State Long Beach student who himself is undocumented, here since he was 11. It has been making the rounds online after debuting six weeks ago on Facebook, with regular installments posted on Salgado's Notas From the Beach blog. Until last year Salgado drew cartoons for the campus newspaper the Daily 49er, including another comic strip.

"Liberty for All" has been especially embraced by college students and others campaigning for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would provide a path to legal status for qualifying young people who attend college or join the military. The proposed legislation comes up for a vote next week, tacked onto a defense bill as an amendment.

"It's a collection of all the stories I have heard," said Salgado, 27, of the comic strip. "These are things I have heard happen to different students. She's got an English degree, but she can't do anything with the degree, so she has to take on menial jobs."

Libertad's story also closely parallels Salgado's story: Born in Ensenada, he and his family arrived in Southern California with temporary visas, but their stay turned into a permanent underground one after his sister became critically ill and needed lifesaving treatment, he said. He has been unable to adjust his status since.

There are other immigration-related comic panels on his Notas From the Beach blog, as well as a series of panels titled "Las Mujeres de Robert Rodriguez," Rubenesque depictions of the heroines of the "Machete" director's films.

A journalism major, Salgado has three units to go. Meanwhile, he works at a restaurant and draws on the side. It has taken him eight years to finish college part-time while working. Undocumented students are barred from public student loans, making menial jobs part of the picture for many during and after college.

"I survive the same way Libertad survives," he said. "You have to take any job that you can. Hopefully next week, my life will change."