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Four Latinas from the Biden White House reflect on their personal trajectories, their historical roles

WASHINGTON – It was quite a journey for Jennifer Molina.

“I arrived without papers, we were poor,” said Molina, who immigrated with her family from Colombia. She now works in the White House as Senior Director of Media Coalitions, responsible for media communications that focus on specific communities such as Latinos.

“We didn’t have much and I think growing up with so little it helped me,” Molina said. “My mom was a single mom and I could really see the need for politics in people’s lives.”

Molina is one of four high-level Latins in Biden’s White House, along with Pili Tobar, deputy director of communications; Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, Chief of Staff to First Lady Jill Biden and Julie Chávez Rodríguez, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, where she liaises between federal, state, local and tribal governments to shape and implement administrative policy.

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the four women met at a restaurant near the White House in an exclusive video interview with Noticias Telemundo correspondent Cristina Londoño.

Between discussing their current work and life history, they shared tips and thoughts with some of the employees at Immigrant Food Restaurant – a restaurant that was established to extol the contributions of immigrants to the United States.

Molina encouraged a Venezuelan asylum seeker who was studying culinary science not to give up hope. Tobar told a young immigrant that she could understand his situation. “The hardest thing for me was to leave Guatemala, to leave my family,” said Tobar. “There were times when I was like, ‘What am I doing? I’m missing out to see my brothers grow up, to see my great-grandmother.'”

Noticias Telemundo correspondent Cristina Londoño talks to Pili Tobar, Jennifer Molina and Julie Chávez Rodríguez.Telemundo

Tobar was the communications director for Biden’s presidential campaign and also served as deputy director of America’s Voice, a national immigrant advocacy organization. In addition, she served as the National Director of Hispanic Media and the Democratic National Committee press secretary.

Reynoso, a lawyer and former Ambassador to Uruguay from the Dominican Republic, recently traveled with Tobar to a border facility where minors who have crossed the border are temporarily detained. As the Biden administration grapples with the issue of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, Reynoso spoke of a 4-year-old girl who was without her father and mother, an image she says has remained in her mind.

“As a mother you see the plight of these children and your soul breaks,” Reynoso said.

White House officials were asked about their interactions with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. “Obviously there is deference, respect but, in reality, they’re both very casual and it’s not just now. Throughout their lives, the two have always been very close to people, ”said Tobar.

Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón is the Chief of Staff to First Lady Jill Biden.Telemundo

“I am with the first lady every day and she is one of the most humble people I have ever met in my life. There is no way to describe the simplicity of her person,” said Reynoso.

Chávez Rodríguez was asked what it was like to see the bust of his grandfather, the late civil leader and worker César Chávez, behind President Joe Biden’s desk in the Oval Office. Wednesday was César Chávez’s day at the national level.

“I feel very proud, not only for myself, but for the Latino community,” said Chávez Rodríguez, who was born and raised in California and also served in the Obama White House. “It’s part of our representation in the White House.”

If her grandfather was alive, she said she thought he would ask her to use his government position to fight for the rights of farm workers.

When asked if they have any presidential aspirations, the four laughed a little and talked about the breadth of the office’s responsibilities.

“I think it made me realize that at no time would I like this,” Tobar said. “I saw how hard this job is, the hard decisions to make.”

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in Noticias Telemundo.

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