By Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz
The Supreme Court is currently deliberating the future of the DACA program and DACA recipients like Yazmin, who was born in Mexico, and migrated with her mother and sister to the United States when she was three years old. She lives in Albuquerque, and will soon graduate from medical school. Her hope and resilience comes from her faith and community organizing. Her #HomeIsHere.
November 12, 2019: I began my day with “morning report” in the Trauma Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s the only level-one trauma center in the state — therefore, the multiple admissions admitted overnight weren’t unexpected. The night team reported that we would be receiving two additional transfers from rural areas. I listened to the overnight status of each patient, making note of acute changes to follow-up on during my morning check-ins. That day was no different from any other day in the ICU: after morning report there were pre-rounds, rounds, floorwork, procedures, and sign-out.
Yet as I performed these routine, daily tasks, my mind was elsewhere. I thought about the members of my community as they walked out of their schools, rallied outside the Supreme Court in our nation’s capital, and took action in their communities. Young people just like me from across the country who chanted loud and clear: Home is here!
On that day in November while I was in the trauma ICU, the United States Supreme Court was hearing a case that would have a major impact on my life. Lawyers delivered oral arguments on the Trump administration's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The nine Justices’ decision, which could come anytime between now and June, will affect over 660,000 DACA recipients currently enrolled in the program — including me.
March 25, 2008: That was the day my world was shaken. I was 16 years old and my mother — my hero — suffered a stroke. We feared that she wouldn’t make it. I could feel the overwhelming fear in my chest as the thought of losing my mother seeped into my head. My sister and I worried and wondered how we would keep a roof over our heads while paying the medical bills, which quickly began to pile up.
Eventually, my mother recovered. The months of therapy were grueling and her road to recovery was bumpy. We weren’t always able to pay for the services she needed. Her speech and motor ability aren’t what they used to be, but she is alive and safe. She has seen my twin sister walk across the stage to obtain her juris doctor, was present when her first grandchild was born, and looks forward to “hooding” me this May when I receive my medical doctorate.
It was this experience that led me to pursue a career in medicine. I dreamed of providing dignified, culturally competent medical care to women like my mother. Medical care that wasn’t dependent on where you came from, your immigration status, the language you spoke or any accent you had, but that was based on the basic human right to lead and live a healthy life.
I was the first undocumented student to be accepted to the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine which came with its own unique challenges. I wasn’t eligible for financial aid and had to find alternative ways of funding my education. I worked a full-time job between two fellowships. I remember long weeks that blurred into each other as I tried to catch my breath between medical school and my fellowships’ responsibilities. I remember the frustration that came with feeling as if I was failing in all areas of my life: medical school, my fellowships, as a partner, with my family. Through all of this, I also worried about myself and other undocumented people like me.
March 10, 2020: It’s mid-morning and I’m sitting at home thinking about the Supreme Court’s decision. It's hard to not be anxious when I don’t know the day that it will come. The day the Supreme Court announces their decision, it could change my entire future.
If DACA ends, my work permit will expire and I will be unable to provide medical care to my patients, but most importantly, my deportation protection will be gone. DACA has never been solely about work permits. It has also been about the relief it gave to undocumented young people who lived their childhood with the fear of being detained, deported, and separated from their loved ones.
Since the oral arguments in November, Trump’s deportation force admitted that they are preparing to detain and deport DACA recipients. Even more recently, the Trump administration has deployed “elite tactical agents” to surveil undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities. According to the news coverage, they want to “flood the streets” and arrest as many people as possible. It's clear that they are persecuting us with everything they have. It's clear that the recession of DACA was only the tip of the iceberg in this administration's xenophobic efforts to rid our nation of immigrants – not only my sister and me, but people like my mother and my neighbors. Your neighbors, too, most likely.
It’s hard not to think about it every day, but one thing grounds me: We were here before DACA, and we will be here after. To me, DACA was and continues to be a promise, that immigrants can be given the chance to live and thrive by being protected from deportation without the need for legislation that hurts other immigrants in their community. Without building more detention camps where immigrants are dying, without hiring more deportation agents, and without tearing any more families apart.
That idea continues to live in every single one of us. We know what is possible and our vision for the country is one where all people can have the freedom to stay and the freedom to move.
I see and hear that vision with every walkout, with every rally, with every direct action that young people take. When the Supreme Court decision comes, we will flood the streets with our chants and our freedom songs. We will make sure that the American people see and hear us, and we will invite you all to join us to fight against Trump’s mass deportation agenda.
We fight for the millions of undocumented people, because for all of us, home is here.
United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful network made up of over 700,000 members and over 100 local groups and a reach of over 5 million per month. UWD has trained over 60,000 immigrant youth in organizing, have stopped over 700 deportations and have won systematic change. UWD’s vision is to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement of young people who organize and advocate at the local and national levels for the dignity and justice of immigrants and communities of color in the United States. You can find more about UWD online at www.unitedwedream.org.