In roughly three months, I’ll finish my third year as a medical student. In a little over a year, I hope to obtain my medical degree, a product of my father’s optimism, drive and unconditional support. At this rate, he won’t be here to witness that achievement. He is scheduled to be deported in less than two weeks.
I was trained to care for each patient, regardless of sex, race, religion or even immigrant status. It is with this mentality that I go to work every day, hoping that our medical system will advocate and work for all our patients, regardless of their background. However, this is not the case for our immigration system.
Thousands of immigrant families are currently being separated due to harsh and inhumane policies. My family may be next.
In 1996, my dad applied for asylum. He went to court without a lawyer or a translator and was swiftly rejected. But, as he has no criminal record and is fiscally and culturally contributing to our country, he wasn’t a priority for deportation. Since 2011, he has had annual check-ins with immigration officials.
Earlier this year, my father went for his routine check-in and was swiftly arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now, my dad is behind bars and being treated like a criminal.
It felt as though the whole world turned against me and my family. Questions flooded in: When will they deport my dad? He has back problems; will he receive his medication? Will I ever see my dad again?
I was trained to care for each patient, regardless of sex, race, religion or even immigrant status. However, this is not the case for our immigration system.
His deportation is scheduled for early April. Imagine starting a new semester of medical school knowing that someone you love could be taken away from you forever, over a piece of paper.
That is the position my two sisters and I are now in. The three of us want to work in the medical field, but we need our dad’s support to accomplish this dream. He is the breadwinner of our family and without his presence in the United States, my entire family will endure hardship.
As a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, I have limited resources available to pay for my medical education, and medical students are not allowed to work due to the demanding schedule.
I rely heavily on my dad to make ends meet ― that means paying for my rent, my insurance and groceries. Even in this difficult situation, my dad has always done his best to provide and support my educational goals, including becoming a physician and providing care to underserved areas of the United States.
Without his financial help and emotional support, finishing medical school ― and thus my medical career ― might be in jeopardy. In short, if my father is deported, I will likely have to drop out of medical school to work and financially provide for my sister’s education, while putting mine on hold.
My dad’s last words to me before he was taken into custody: 'They are going to detain me, my child, keep going, my child, you can do it.'
Even worse, I would not be able to visit my father because my DACA status prevents me from leaving the United States.
My dad’s last words to me before he was taken into custody were through a text, where he stated, “me van a dejar detenido mija, sigue adelante mija, tu puedes.” This roughly translates to “they are going to detain me, my child, keep going, my child, you can do it.”
I plan to do just that.
As a soon-to-be physician, I have taken the Hippocratic oath to do no harm. I believe that with that oath, I also must advocate for those who cannot stand up for themselves, including undocumented immigrants ― one of them being my dad.
My father is not a criminal. He is a hardworking father who aspired to provide for his family, contribute to his community and see his three daughters graduate from college. My education, my future here, and my ability to give back to this country will all be disrupted if my father is deported.
My family’s story proves that immigrants can be an asset to the United States, if given a chance. That is why I implore the federal government to release my father from detention, stop his deportation and allow my family to continue to pursue the American dream.
Belsy Garcia is a DACA recipient and a third-year medical student at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine.