ASU alumna Athena Salman has an undeniable ardor for immigration reform. The eagerness to represent others and express her own voice led Salman to run for the House of Representatives in District 26.
“I want to see elected leaders welcome immigrants with open arms,” Salman says. “That is something I have always been passionate about.”
Salman’s family migrated to the United States in the 1970s; her grandmother is from Germany and her grandfather was born in Mexico. As a first-generation American—and the first in her family to graduate college—her passion for helping the racially diverse stems from her background.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when Salman was in middle school, she heard her teachers express their support for attacking the Middle East. Salman understood what it felt like to stand out because of race when her friend’s uncle—who is of Middle Eastern descent—was killed after the attacks. She has used that experience to build on her campaign, and help individuals who are diverse in race and culture.
Her passion for racial issues grew even more in her senior year at ASU, when Arizona Senate Bill 1070 was introduced. The bill requires police to determine the immigration status of those placed under arrest—if there is reasonable suspicion.
“People believed the bill was focused on Latinos. After the bill’s introduction to the Senate, I connected with a nonprofit organization and helped increase Latino voting by 500%,” Salman says.
The bill passed in 2010, but Salman was able to help Latinos express their own voice surrounding the issue.
After graduating from ASU with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science, Salman went on to help Girl Scouts of America in Flagstaff. Once Salman discovered that less than 15 of the 260 girls she was supporting were Latinas, she decided to begin working toward finding more opportunities to allow Latina community engagement.
“If we just let hate and lack of tolerance for diversity go unchecked, that will have a strong negative impact on our world,” says Salman.
She stands behind the belief that everyone deserves respect and acceptance, no matter their race.
Salman wants younger individuals to know that they are capable of making a difference. Salman intends to build on these goals if she is elected. The primary election is August 30, while the general election is November 8.
“Young people could make such a huge difference in our community,” she says. “If we pull the community together and show our support for one another.”