Angelica Salas is an immigrant from Durango, Mexico. She came to the United States as a child to reunite with her parents, who came to provide a better life for their family. Angelica comes to her understanding of immigrants and immigration firsthand, she and her entire family lived in the country undocumented and experienced deportation before legalizing their status. In 2008, Angelica became a U.S. citizen. She makes Pasadena, California her home, the first city she arrived at as a child. She is married to Mayron Payes, an immigrant from El Salvador, and has two children, Ruben and Maya Payes.
Angelica joined CHIRLA in 1995 and became CHIRLA's executive director in 1999. In her role, she has transformed CHIRLA into a mass membership immigrant-led organization that empowers immigrants and their families to win local, state and national policies that advance their human, civil and labor rights. She has grown CHIRLA into one of the nation's largest and most effective immigrant rights organizations that organizes, advocates, educates and provides legal services to all immigrants. She has spearheaded ambitious statewide and national campaigns to expand immigrant rights. She has helped found organizations and coalitions to advocate for immigrant workers, youth and families. Among her achievements include winning in-state, financial aid and grant programs for California's undocumented students, establishing day-laborer centers that become national models, winning drivers' licenses for undocumented drivers, decoupling local police departments from immigration enforcement, expanding access to immigrant legal services and winning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Angelica is a state and national leader in the advocacy for immigration reform and immigrant justice. She was instrumental in the formation of Executive Committee of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), two of the country's largest immigrant rights coalitions.
Angelica is a recognized grassroots leader that plays a national leadership role in all major immigration reform campaigns. She serves as a national spokesperson for immigrant communities and immigrant rights campaigns. Angelica has sought expert responses from Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Univision, Telemundo, NPR, etc. Recently, Angelica’s work led to the House of Representatives passage of the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 and the Dream and Promise Act of 2021, a bill to give people with DACA and TPS a path to citizenship.
She graduated from Occidental College with a bachelor's in history and a bachelor's in sociology in 1993. In 2007, Occidental College awarded her an honorary doctorate for her many contributions making her one of the youngest recipients in the college’s history.
Angelica serves on the Board of Directors for California Wellness Foundation, National Partnership for New Americans, America's Voice, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and Californians for Human Immigrant Leadership Action Fund (CHIRLA Action Fund).