MIAMI — Dan-el Padilla Peralta's life story is one of hardship and scholarly excellence, as the Dominican-born undocumented young man went from a homeless shelter to Princeton, Oxford, and Columbia. He turned the tale into a memoir, but part of that story — and the focus of a new Spanish-language ad — involves Hillary Clinton and her efforts to get him a visa to return to the United States after studying abroad.
The new ad entitled "Life Requires Risks," which will run in the New York City media market beginning Thursday, features narration from Peralta, who entered the country on a tourist visa when he was 4 years old. "Hillary Clinton fought for an undocumented Dominican kid and helped me get a visa to return," he says.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News as he left the library at Columbia University, where he is finishing a post-doctorate degree before returning to Princeton University to become an assistant professor, Peralta said that Clinton interceded on his behalf on three separate occasions.
When her initial letter to help him regularize his status fell on deaf ears, Peralta took a big risk, leaving the country for the chance to study at Oxford.
Clinton then sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in London and followed up again months later. Peralta credits that final effort with allowing him to reenter the country.
As the campaign has turned to the suddenly important and delegate-rich New York primary, Clinton has made an effort to remind voters of her time as senator. These reminders began aimed at upstate residents — Clinton famously went on a listening tour of 62 counties as she transitioned from First Lady to a senator.
Now reminding New Yorkers of her work on immigration is part of that effort, too.
When Clinton ran in 2008, she made what was considered a major gaffe on immigration — bumbling an answer and backtracking on driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. But during her time as senator she also co-sponsored the DREAM Act, supported the 2006 immigration bill, and introduced a bill to give immigrant children access to Medicaid.
Even before Peralta left for Oxford, uncertain if he could return, Bill Clinton spoke to him at his Princeton graduation, who told him that he had heard about his case from Hillary Clinton.
"It meant the world to me to know that that here were these two extremely important politicians who wanted to help me with my immigration predicament," Peralta said. "It wasn't a passing familiarity but they were conversant in the details, and offered to lend their support to me. To this day it's difficult to capture in words."