Spanish-language networks such as Univision and Telemundo are staples in Latino households. For many of us, we grew up with the TV always on Primer Impacto or Jorge Ramos delivering the news. Latinos in the U.S. depend on these networks; they’re a lifeline to the outside world — they’re that important. We are a loyal audience because they have our back. However, we are starting to reconsider that after learning about Estefany Méndez, a producer at a Univision news affiliate in San Jose, California, that got fired because her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status had expired.
In an interview with HipLatina, Méndez, an Emmy-award winning journalist, recalls the moment she realized her life would totally change. It was in 2016 when Donald Trump had won the presidency.
“I went to the bathroom and just cried,” the 30-year-old says, who was producing a segment for Univision 14 San Jose at the time. “I just knew what that meant. It was a realization of what that meant for myself and others in my community.”
Méndez came to the U.S. at the age of 12 from Mexico City. In her new home, Méndez accomplished what most dream about, going to college and establishing a career. After graduating with a journalism degree from Brigham Young University in Idaho, Méndez was approached by Univision after they saw her work as an immigration activist in Sacramento.
For the past six years, Méndez worked at Univision (not counting her years as an intern) until last month when she was terminated from her position in San Jose. They informed her it was because her DACA permit had expired, but she alleges it was much more than that.
Méndez says that she brought up her concerns to HR about the working conditions at her San Jose station. She reported having a stressful work schedule and verbal abuse by management. She believes that was the catalyst to her termination.
“From what I was told by employees that worked with the company for years, it’s very hard to get fired from Univision,” Méndez says. “They have to really build a case against you.”
According to Méndez, she did file her DACA renewal forms before the expiration date, but these forms do not get approved overnight. It takes a lot of time.
Irma Pérez, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, told La Opinion that DACA renewals could take between a month and six months. Why couldn’t Univision wait?
According to NABET-CWA Local 51, the union that represents Méndez, when she informed them that she got fired, they emailed her and said: “They can hold your job for 30 days if you can get your DACA status cleared up before that they will reinstate you. They are going to pay out your vacation (because the law says that they must. If you come back before the 31st day they will be able to reinstate you and you start earning vacation again. Please explain to your lawyer that your job is lost if you don’t have this back in status before the 30th day. After that, they can opt to re-hire you but it will be a competitive application for a new job situation, not a reinstatement of your existing job.”
Méndez says she her peers that work at networks such as ABC and CNN do not pressure DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) employees about their documents. It’s ironic that Univision who claims to serve the Latino community would treat a DACA employee with such disregard, especially someone who’s been with the company for a while and covers immigration and DACA.
In a statement to La Opinion, Univision responded to Méndez’s story by saying that they do not comment on labor issues of any employee, and added: “We offer any Univision employee who is a beneficiary of DACA the reimbursement of their renewal costs.”
Méndez’s situation isn’t a matter of renewal costs but rather showing compassion or at least being understanding. She had moments where she thought she should have never spoken out against any issues at her job because it wouldn’t have made her a target, but staying quiet isn’t her nature.
“I have this activism in me,” she says. “If I see something is not okay, I speak up.”
Méndez is seeking the advice of an attorney to see what her next steps will be.
To learn more about Méndez’s life, watch this video below.