ATLANTA — Valeria Metzgen (B.S. ’22) has started packing for Washington, D.C., and her summer internship with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. While there, she’ll work in a congressional office and participate in professional and leadership development training classes at American University.
“I’ll be on the Hill 10 weeks with the most influential Hispanic leaders in the country,” said Metzgen, who will graduate this spring with a degree in public management and policy.
Metzgen, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigrant, was born in Honduras and raised in Miami and Johns Creek, Ga. As a DACA recipient, she found tuition for Georgia’s higher education institutions prohibitively expensive. But an Apple MacBook, an Equifax mentor and her experience navigating immigration policy led her to the internship and her future.
“I was working full time and struggling to pay the out-of-state tuition charged to immigrants at Perimeter in a program I wasn’t interested in pursuing, so I dropped out,” she said. “A friend’s dad worked at Equifax and was given an Apple MacBook. I wanted a MacBook, so I applied for a job there and was hired. I didn’t get the MacBook, but way more — and I’m very happy about it.”
The youngest staff member in her Equifax division, Metzgen said she “fell in love with play-arguing policy and politics with managers.” That, and working through the DACA legal process, helped her decide to enroll at Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.
“My parents applied for my residency when I was 2, but the process didn’t end until I was 22,” she said. “Despite access to legal aid and the ability to pay legal fees, the process still took 20 years. By then, I was ready to apply myself and was inspired to go for a policy degree.”
At Equifax, Metzgen received a full tuition reimbursement for working full time and going to school full time. She also learned from her mentor Kent Lindner, Equifax’s chief risk officer, who introduced her to its government relations, legal and compliance teams. She ended up writing consumer policies for Equifax — the dispute resolution process, security freeze policy and fraud alert policy — and helped create a Spanish-language credit report which allows 62 million Spanish-speaking consumers access to financial literacy.
“This work got me out the door and played a key part in helping me get the internship,” she said.
Metzgen believes the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute internship will lead her deeper into her dream career.
“For now, I’m thinking my next step may be immigration lobbying for a private company like Google or Facebook, which spend the most money on immigration lobbying,” she said. “It’s still only very privileged people who can come to the U.S. on a visa — not farmers or climate refugees.
“My goal is to write policies so people like my family can come into the U.S. We could see what constituents really want. My experience is a good example of issues we’ve all had to work through. My parents and I are residents, and my oldest brothers, born here, are in the Navy and Marine Corps. Can you imagine where this country would be if immigrants could spend their time contributing to the U.S. instead of working through these obstacles?”