What Will Happen to Undocumented Doctors?


Deferred Action program that we have, known as DACA, these are kids who were brought here by their parents. They did nothing wrong. We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties. If I didn’t have DACA, I would not be able to continue practicing medicine. There are no exceptions. I’m here. The patients are here. They’re sick. The day it is revoked, I have to take off my white coat. I don’t have any days off during rotation. I power through the weekends, and holidays aren’t a thing. I come in at 6:30, get out at 9. Get home. You kind of microwave yourself something, and go straight to bed. I’m supposed to stay under an 80 hour workweek. It’s a picture of me and my mom the day before I graduated college. My mother and father came from Venezuela where there’s a lot of economic distress and political distress. They wanted a better future for me and for themselves. I was 7 years old, so we came here on a tourist visa. We overstayed the tourist visa. My mother is a babysitter and housekeeper. My father does odd jobs, worked construction. Right now, there’s no path to legalization. I would like to believe that there are options. I can’t think of any that are realistic, other than doing what my parents do. I think about it for about five seconds. I find it a little unbearable to think about. Then, I just forget about it because it just fit in my brain. Although, there had been undocumented students in various medical schools – a few here, a few there. We were the first medical school to change our admissions policy to actually welcome applications from students of DACA status. We don’t want to turn back now. We want to get them down that path further and try to make it happen. It is a huge chasm of uncertainty in terms of, you know, imagine being three-fourths of the way through a medical degree and then just having that come to a complete hault. Because a residency program cannot hire you if you don’t have work authorization. It’s a big moment, and we’re all kind of holding our breath and just hoping that clear heads prevail. and really I think it’s a matter of justice and fairness. Without DACA, I’m at risk of losing my loans. Then, there’s the questions like what if I graduate? What now? But I’m determined to finish, whether it takes me seven years, or it takes me ten years. My interest is in primary care because I grew up where most of my community didn’t have access to healthcare. Being undocumented in medical school, I mean you blend in now. You’re part of the crowd. But when I go back home, the possibility of not being able to finish medical school or a residency but having already $150,000 in loans. All of that makes me internally a different person, even though externally I still have to show up in a white coat and be professional. It’s like living a double life, right? Sometimes. They teach you. You know somebody says that they’re in pain, you don’t second guess it. You give them something for their pain because even if they don’t look like they’re in pain, that doesn’t mean that they’re not in pain. There are 28 medical students, Madame President, at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. If they lose their work permit, they have to drop out of medical school. What happens if DACA goes away? Well obviously, they’re subject to deportation. Number two – no work permit. To have these doctors, these potential doctors diverted from this ambition because of political negligence is unacceptable. A measure we call the Bridge Act. This is an effort by Senator Graham and myself to have a bipartisan answer to the question about what happens to these 800,000 others like them. Will the so-called Dreamers, who were brought here as minors, will they be deported? They’re called Dreamers because that’s the most sympathetic term, and they came here to live in the shadows, so if we enforce the law, and they live in the shadows, that’s what they came here to do. I don’t think we’ve thought through this very well. If the kids are innocent, the parents are guilty. We have to look at the parents. Some people don’t like me saying this, but sometimes working in a lab feels similar to working in a kitchen. You end up needing a lot of tubes and heating them in the autoclave, so kind of similar to an oven. It makes me wonder, you know, those people that were working in the kitchens if given the chance, how many of those people would actually have excelled working in a lab. My parents have mostly worked in either the fields or in factories, processing food. Right now, many discussions that are going on are going to the extremes. You know, we’re going to deport all of them, or we’re going to give special treatment to these very high-achievers. Did she hear a pop when it started at all? If, let’s say medical students are deported, it’ll make bigger news, right? And people will see that as something negative. But if you deport the “normal” people, I would like my parents to also be able to somehow fix their status because they’ve suffered, too. It’s not just us “Dreamers” or DACA students. I don’t think it’s fair that they say that the Dreamers are okay, but the other undocumented people aren’t. Those are my patients. Those are my future patients. I came here in 1993. I have two kids, and they were very young at that time. My son, he is a lawyer now. My daughter, Aaima, she’s in third year of medical school. For me, their education was very important. During education, they didn’t have any immigration status. Their father left country, and he was the petitioner. So their cases got affected. One time, Aaima said that I have been struggling studying, but I don’t know for what. Because I don’t see my future. I feel honestly, I feel very bad, but for me, this is the country, and I love this country. DACA students are immigrants that are likable or marketable to the general public. But framing so-called Dreamers as being different from the rest, I don’t think we are different. Because all immigrants are dreamers. We all came here because of the promise of the American dream.

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