Fernando Aparicio-Rojas, DREAMer
Tell me about your family. When did you come to America?
I do not remember much about my country of birth because I was 6 years old when my parents brought me to the United States. My mother recalls that she did not want to leave Mexico, but we lived in very harsh conditions where we had no electricity, clean water, nor access to health care. It was the love for her children that made her leave, although she knew that crossing the border could jeopardize her life, she insisted in searching for a better future for her children.
Tell me more about your childhood and growing up in America
Perth Amboy is where I arrived, it is where I went to elementary school, middle school, and eventually high school. Here is where I lived most of my childhood, my teenage years and became a young adult. School educated me to become an American, they taught me a new language and helped me adapt into their culture. So I grew up believing that this was my home. When junior year of high school came, everybody was talking about college and my plan was to apply to Rutgers University because it was such a prestigious school with a large diversity of students. I never really understood the true meaning of being undocumented until that year. My dreams were torn to pieces, my future was unclear, my life changed completely. I felt as if I was not wanted, that suddenly, I was being punished for something wrong that I had unconsciously done. College seemed like something impossible because where would my mother get $16,000 a year to pay for Rutgers? I was unable to apply for financial aid because I did not have a social security and banks rejected my applications for student loans even after having a co-signer. I had big dreams but unfortunately my immigration status and economic disadvantage forced me to take another path in life.
How has DACA helped you? Where did you go to school, and/or where do you work?
After finally understanding that I was not going to receive a single cent for my college education I became depressed because I felt unwanted, inferior, and unworthy. Shortly afterwards, President Obama signed an executive action that would protect specific kids like me from deportation and be given a working authorization card and a social security to work and for this I will be forever grateful. This act of kindness changed my life completely because it allowed me to get a job and pay for some of my tuition at Middlesex County College, it also allowed me to financially support my mother who is a single parent; but most importantly it gave me a voice and a chance to once again fight for my dreams. I took an extra course to become a certified and licensed pharmacy technician and was offered a job at Walgreens. My life now depends on this job and my availability to keep working depends on my DACA. At Middlesex County College I completed an associate’s degree in chemistry and due to my competitive grades, I was awarded a full scholarship by The Dream.US foundation to complete my bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University.
My job as a healthcare provider at Walgreens has inspired me to apply to medical school upon completion of my bachelor’s degree to become a medical doctor. As the first person in my family to attend college I feel so honored to have gotten this far and I owe it to all the good people that believed and supported me. I hope to one day be able to give back the help to someone in my shoes, because the journey is hard and at times very discouraging.
What are your biggest hopes and fears right now?
My biggest hope right now is to get my DACA renewal approved before January 13, 2018 because Walgreens has already told me that if I don’t get it prior to my expiration day I will be terminated. Without a DACA renewal prior to January 13, 2018, I will lose my job, which will result in the inability to continue my education, lose my health insurance, car insurance, driver’s license and leave my mother with the financial burden to raise my two younger siblings. Moreover, the State of New Jersey will suspend my licensing to practice as healthcare provider, a job that inspired me to apply to medical school upon completion of my bachelor’s degree at Rutgers.
What are your dreams for the future?
During my senior year I will be taking the medical college admissions test (MCAT) to apply to medical school upon graduation. I want to be a medical doctor and work in Perth Amboy so that I can give back to my community. I have always admired emergency medicine, so I think I would like to work in the emergency room.
What is your message to other Americans, members of Congress, and the President?
My future is in the hands of Congress, if legislation is not passed I will lose my job at Walgreens where I work as a certified and licensed pharmacy technician and it saddens me that after all that hard work I will be unable to work in my profession. I will be unable to contribute to my community and give my mother and 2 younger siblings a better life, both whom are U.S. citizens. Losing my legal status in the country would also mean losing my pharmacy technician certification and license, losing my health insurance, my car insurance as well. I would technically have everything taken away from me including my identity in this country because I will lose my driver’s license which serves as my only government ID.
I am not asking for special treatment, what I am asking Congress is to be given an opportunity to contribute to the only country I call my home, the only country that I have ever known. I want to work as a doctor here, not in a country that I have not seen since I was 6 years old.