A Dreamer in med school fights to stop her father’s deportation
As a child, Belsy García Manrique rarely went to the doctor. Her family migrated from Guatemala and did not have health insurance. They only sought medical care when they were extremely sick.
“During visits, none of the nurses or staff spoke Spanish,” Ms. García Manrique said. “The doctors didn’t either. So when my parents had to go, I had to translate. I translated for friends and the community as well.”
Seeing first-hand this clear need for bilingual and bicultural physicians is where her dream of becoming a doctor began.
“Maybe I can make a change,” Ms. García Manrique recalled thinking at the time. “But back then, I didn’t know what that would entail.”
As a child, Belsy García Manrique rarely went to the doctor. Her family migrated from Guatemala and did not have health insurance.
Ms. García Manrique is a Dreamer, an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States with her parents as a minor. She arrived here when she was 7 and is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy instituted by President Obama in 2012. An estimated 690,000 DACA recipients, like Ms. García Manrique, have been allowed to stay and work in the United States since then. But after the Trump administration announced last September that the policy would end, their future has been uncertain.
Recent court decisions have temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA. But the rulings only affect DACA renewals and do not require that new applications to the program be accepted. The Center for Migration Studies in New York estimates that there are more than 2.2 million Dreamers in the United States and fewer than half are DACA recipients.
Congress passed up a chance to find a permanent solution for Dreamers with the $1.3 trillion spending bill, signed by President Trump on March 23. Despite lobbying from both parties, the bill left out possible provisions to protect Dreamers.
Congress passed up a chance to find a permanent solution for Dreamers with the $1.3 trillion spending bill.
“Certainly, there’s an urgency. Dreamers are living on a thread, and it’s a missed opportunity,” according to Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international immigration policy for the Center for Migration Studies.
Ashley Feasley, the director of migration policy and public affairs for the U.S. bishops, said it was disappointing that protections for Dreamers were not included in the spending bill.
“Despite the pending litigation, there remains no real secure protection for Dreamers—they are still facing daily anxiety and uncertainty,” she said in an email to America. “The solution for Dreamers must come from Congress.”
Ms. Feasley said the bishops are urging lawmakers to look beyond enforcement and remember that negotiations are also about “the well-being of many immigrant families.”
Ms. García Manrique is a year away from realizing her dream of becoming a doctor—and her father is awaiting deportation.
That hits home for Ms. García Manrique. Today, she is a year away from realizing her dream of becoming a doctor—and her father, Felix Garcia, is awaiting deportation at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga.
Ms. García Manrique is a student at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, the first medical school in the country to accept DACA students.
“If you think of the obstacles [Dreamers] have overcome, all their lives they were told they couldn’t be doctors,” said Mark G. Kuczewski, a professor of medical ethics at Loyola. There are 32 DACA recipients in Loyola’s medical school program.
“These are young people who have grown up here. To some degree, they are Americans in every way but on paper. This is the only country they know,” Mr. Kuczewski said.
“If you think of the obstacles [Dreamers] have overcome, all their lives they were told they couldn’t be doctors.”
Staff at Loyola ensure DACA students receive good legal advice, and the university helps with financial aid, partnering with Trinity Health and others to cover costs.
“Immigrants who come here are typically younger,” Mr. Kuczewski said. “They grow the economy. They don’t take jobs from others—they spend money, raise families and contribute to the economy.”
When the Trump administration rescinded DACA, it was like a “gut punch,” according to Mr. Kuczewski. “It takes a toll,” he said. “For most [Dreamers], they’re worried about their families.”
Stephen Katsouros, S.J., the dean and executive director of Arrupe College, said the lack of predictability has worn on undocumented students and their loved ones. The two-year college, part of Loyola University Chicago, offers affordable Jesuit higher education to students, including the undocumented.
The lack of predictability has worn on undocumented students and their loved ones.
They count on partnerships with sponsors and organizations, like thedream.us, to provide education to the marginalized. The college has learned how to deliver a liberal arts education from the students themselves, Father Katsouros said.
“I think our students would say that all they are all really different,” Father Katsouros said, explaining that undocumented immigrants come from many different countries. “There’s not one great central narrative. But it’s a struggle for many.”
That is certainly true for Ms. García Manrique, who had spoken with her father minutes before speaking with America.
“Me graduating, becoming a doctor, is his ultimate goal, too.... That’s his dream and my dream.”
“He’s O.K.,” she said, noting that Mr. García has been in detention for the last two months. “He can have good days and bad days. Sometimes he feels frustrated being there.”
Mr. García’s youngest daughter is 19 and a U.S. citizen. But she cannot petition for legal residency for her father until she is 21.
Mr. García came to the United States from Guatemala seeking asylum in 1995. His family joined him two years later. The father of three learned to speak English, got his G.E.D. and received an accounting diploma.
Nine years ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement began investigating the carpet factory where Mr. García worked. He cooperated and was permitted to stay in the country as long as he checked in with ICE and filed a stay of deportation. That changed in January. During a routine check-in with ICE, Mr. García’s stay was denied and his deportation was scheduled for April 4.
The family's plight has not gone unnoticed by the church.
“The deportation of Felix García undermines the integrity of his family and his role in his Georgia community,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Ga., said in a statement released on March 27. Mr. García “came to our country seeking asylum—safety for his wife and small daughters after suffering political persecution in his home country,” he said.
Catholics are called to respect the dignity of all persons “including those fleeing their homes, seeking safety for themselves and their families,” Archbishop Gregory said. “In standing with the Garcia family, we assert that we support the unity and dignity of all families and commit to continued work to build communities where all are truly welcome.”
“Things are hard for me right now,” Ms. García Manrique said. “But this education is not only for me. It’s for my parents as well, for the extreme sacrifice they had to make in coming to the United States.”
Her parents left their culture and their language to provide for their daughters, she said.
“Even when I talk to my dad on the phone and tell him I’m working on finding a solution for him, he always tells me, ‘O.K., but make sure you’re still studying,’” Ms. García Manrique said. “Me graduating, becoming a doctor, is his ultimate goal, too, and ultimate reward, regardless of what ends up happening. That’s his dream and my dream.”
For more information on the case of Felix Garcia, contact the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
Updated on March 28, 2018; 4;43 p.m. ET with a statement from Archbishop Gregory