Tell me about your family. When did you come to America?
I came to the US when I was 7 years old along with my brothers and mother. My father was already living here and we came to be with him. We came from Arequipa, Peru.
Tell me more about your childhood and growing up in America?
I grew up in Union City, NJ. Growing up there great because there is a large population of Spanish speaking immigrants. I didn’t really feel out of place because most of the people around me spoke Spanish and looked like me. I did the same things my US citizen friends did so I never felt out of place, despite being undocumented. I realized I was undocumented when I was in high school and was told that I would have to work twice as hard to get to the same place as those who were citizens. I excelled academically while growing up. I had great mentors in high school who supported me and told me that my dreams of getting into college were valid.
How has DACA helped you?
Daca provided me with a sense of agency i never felt before. With DACA I was able to feel somewhat comfortable in this country. Along with my brothers, we were able to work legally and contribute to our family’s expenses. With DACA I was able to work during the summers while I was in school and was able to participate in programs that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to participate in. I conducted research at Princeton University’s Chemistry Department and had my work published. For my thesis work on the well being of undocumented students I was able to travel the country and present my research at various conferences. I worked at the New York State Health Foundation as a program intern. I was also able to work part time my senior year at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care an an Outreach intern working for a lung cancer screening program. By working I was able to support myself through college while also having the opportunity to build up my resume and do the things I’m passionate about.
Where did you go to school, and/or where do you work?
I went to Saint Peter’s University where i studied Biochemistry and Latino studies. I currently work as a clinical research coordinator for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
What are your biggest hopes and fears right now?
My biggest hope is that a clean Dream Act will Pass. We need this bill because it will provide undocumented youth with a pathway to citizenship and give us the respect and dignity we deserve. This bill wouldn’t throw other immigrant communities under the bus like some of the other proposed bills. My hope is that this can pass so that we are given a chance to breathe. My fears are that this bill won’t pass and that another bill that will pass that will jeapordize the safety of other vulnerable immigrant communities. Another fear is that no bill will pass and after my daca expires in 2019 I will be left with nothing. I fear having to return to Peru and losing everything I have in this country. As a queer person, going back to Peru would put my safety at risk and force me back in the closet. There are so many fears, but my resilient spirit fuels me to keep on fighting.
What are your dreams for the future?
I’m currently applying to medical school. I plan on pursuing an MD/MPH to become a primary care physician that will focus on advocating for vulnerable communities, like the undocumented. I also want to work on research that will be able to influence health policies to make sure that underserved communities are cared for in this country.
What is your message to other Americans, members of Congress, and the President?
My message to all is to look at us and see beyond an economic asset to this country. A lot of the conversations around the benefit of having undocumented youth stay in this country are about the economic gain and how much money we bring into the economy. I challenge everyone to look past that as see us as people who deserve decency, respect, and dignity. We are individuals who like everyone else, have an attachment to this country and want to see it thrive. A lot of us don’t remember the countries we immigrated from and feel that the US is our home. Our whole lives are here, so please let us live our lives in peace.