“You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one”
I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one”
|Our nurse, traveling with us to Flagstaff so we could take our son on his first trip.|
I have a medically fragile son that requires around the clock nursing care. My son’s day nurse has worked for our family full-time for almost 2 years. She has become a back bone to our everyday life, and of course we are very close with her. Here is part of her story.
What do you do for a living? What makes your job challenging and unique?
I’m a pediatric home health nurse. I have had to save my patient’s life more than 100 times. It happens almost every day because he is a critical patient. I think I go above and beyond in my work because I’m very emotionally attached to my patient. It’s more than a job to me and more than a paycheck. It’s his life and I want to make sure he gets the most out of every day. I like to challenge myself and him with everything from feeding skills to one extra minute of therapy. I like helping him achieve those little goals.
Where are you from and how did you end up in the United States?
I was born in Mexico City. I was brought here when I was 7 years old by my parents. My memory can only go back to the time we crossed the desert. That’s when my life started. I don’t have memories of living in Mexico and have only heard stories from my family. We walked 3 days and 2 nights in the desert and I didn’t understand what was happening. My parents were scared and I didn’t understand why we had to hide from cars and sleep outside under leaves. I didn’t understand why we were walking and carrying our water. I remember my dad telling me when we got there I could have an ice cream. I could never have an ice cream in Mexico. I did end up getting the ice cream from a nice man at the first McDonald’s we saw.
Why did your parents bring you here? Why didn’t they come legally?
My parents wanted me to have a better future. Initially they thought they could just work, save money and return to Mexico. They never got to go back. They saw I could have a better life here and didn’t consider the obstacles I would face later in life. I have a 7 year old sister and a 17 year old brother and they were both born here and are citizens. They have never been to Mexico.
There was no money or resources to come legally. Financially, my parents were not in a position to afford a visa. If they were in a good financial position, they would have never left their families, community and where they were raised to find a better future. There was no path to citizenship for them. There is no way to become a citizen by applying on your own. It’s much more complicated than people understand.
What is DACA and how did you become a recipient?
DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s a program that started in 2012 and you have to qualify for it. You have to have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and you also have to be less than 30 years old. There were many specific qualifications like background checks, finger prints, listing every place we have ever lived, proving we were here since we were 16 and that we had never left, we had to go to school and have no criminal record. Once you were approved for all of that, it deferred you from being deported. It also gave you the right to have a driver’s license. You pay a fee of $465 ever 2 years for the permit and have to reapply after those two years. The permit gives you the right to work here legally.
I became a recipient when I was 24 years old. Since I was in college before that, I was not able to use a college scholarship I received. I also had to pay out of state tuition in cash. I could not receive any state benefits, scholarships or grants. I know people that were not able to qualify for DACA. The qualifications are very specific and rigorous. My husband could not qualify because he arrived here 6 months after he turned 16. It’s very difficult to become part of the program.
Do you pay taxes?
Yes I pay taxes just like a citizen. My friends and family that cannot work legally also pay taxes. They have an ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number) that is similar to a social security number that is issued by the IRS. If you don’t have a pay stub or W-2 you file taxes with a specific form. Many people want to do the right thing. They want to live a life just like everyone else. In a way, I think it makes them feel a part of the community. It also gives them hope that they could become legal citizens. It’s proof that they are “good” people and the only bad thing they did was come here illegally for a better life. They want to prove that they follow the rules.
Since you and your family pay taxes, you must be able to receive benefits like a citizen correct? Like financial aid, Medicare, etc?
No. With DACA, we are not allowed to use any federal money. If we want to go to school, we have to pay out of pocket unless you get a private scholarship. We cannot receive FASFA. My parents cannot receive Medicare and have no health insurance. We pay into those programs, but cannot receive any funds.
Once I went to the emergency room because I had a traumatic miscarriage and had to call 911. We got a bill for over $5,000. It was more than I could afford. We avoid going to the doctor at all costs.
Did DACA change how it felt for you to live in the U.S.?
Having DACA made me feel so much safer. I didn’t go places without worrying about if I will return home. I felt different about myself. I always had so many boundaries in my life and couldn’t build a future. I could never consider what I wanted to be when I grew up. Having DACA made me feel like an equal. Even though I had to pay more for school, I still had the same chances for a job as anyone else. I always wanted to buy a house for my parents to live in. Two years after receiving DACA, I was able to buy a house for my family. I worked 2 jobs while in nursing school to buy the house. I would only sleep on breaks during work but my employers were very supportive of my dream. My restraints were gone and I suddenly got to break free. I was unstoppable. I would say I had new hope for my life. Not only did I have hope for myself but also for my siblings. I wanted the American dream for them as well. They had never dreamed of living in their own home or a family vacation or going to summer of camp. I had to help raise them in the summers so my parents could work. I was walking on Cloud 9 for a long time. I gave them a home and took them to Disneyland. People would ask me how I didn’t sleep for 3 years during nursing school but I was so energized by my new life. My sister would always say she wanted to be just like me. I know I have done well for them.
*We take a break to cry. Our family, children and friends are huddled around Miles’s nurse to hear her story.*
How does it feel to know our President has ended the DACA program?
It’s terrifying. It’s devastating to think what you have been able to build in 5 years could be destroyed in 6 months. I’m beginning to think, what will I do with my house? My career? Do I even have a future here? What am I supposed to do? I don’t know if I should go back to a place where I was born to do… who knows what? I wouldn’t know what to do there, what to look for, how to live. Everything I know is here. I’m afraid my family will be split up.
If you could educate people on your situation, what would you tell them?
I don’t believe we are taking away anyone’s job or opportunities. We are not taking anything from Americans. Just because we are getting a chance to be like other Americans, it opens doors for us, but doesn’t close it for others. We all fight for who we want to become and who we want to be. The fact that I work as a nurse does not mean I’m taking the spot from another nurse. If they aren’t a nurse, it’s most likely because they don’t chose to do that with their life. There is room for all of us.
What’s your plan now?
I don’t know what my plan is. It would be easier to answer that in a sense of what I hope for. I don’t know what the future holds and everything is uncertain. I’m hopeful that if congress doesn’t allow us to be citizens, they let us continue to work and go to school legally. Without that, there is no plan for me even though I would like to be a citizen so I could do more with my life. But compared to having nothing, DACA is all I have. I don’t mind paying for it if it’s the only option. It’s hard to have hope. Everyone tells me to be optimistic and I really want to, it’s just hard to hope for something that won’t happen. I don’t know if I can change any of this. I wish there was something to hope for.
Would you or someone you know like to share their DACA story? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org