A Dreamer in med school fights to stop her father’s deportation

Belsy García Manrique, a student at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, with her father, Felix. Belsy García Manrique, a student at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, with her father, Felix. 

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.”

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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

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
4 months 3 weeks ago

Another emotional appeal. The headline uses the words "medical school" and shows a visual of a young woman in her graduation gown. Morally is this any different if the situation and headline were

A Dreamer working as a waitress fights to stop her father’s deportation

or

A Dreamer working as a stocking clerk in Walmart fights to stop his father’s deportation

The answer is there would be no moral difference so favoring one over the other is not a relevant point. The use of the situation, headline and visual is meant to create an emotion. That's why I said it was an emotional appeal and emotional appeals will not lead to a good solution. That is what the Jesuits taught me.

Debate with facts and reason. A better more widely accepted solution will appear.

Vince Killoran
4 months 3 weeks ago

I agree w/you. (And that doesn't happen very often!)

J Cosgrove
4 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you.

We should keep away from unions and the Spanish Civil War.

Dionys Murphy
4 months 3 weeks ago

"Debate with facts and reason."

Facts like being in med school?

You're your own worst enemy.

"That's why I said it was an emotional appeal and emotional appeals will not lead to a good solution" - It's like all you've read is Leviticus and you skipped over the whole part where Jesus walks the earth.

Mike Theman
4 months 3 weeks ago

Must suck to be someone who has lived here legally all their lives and couldn't get into med school because someone here illegally got their spot. Why have immigration laws? Deport the parents and send the kids with them. I'm sure the need doctors in Guatemala, and with her American schooling, she should be a shoo-in for med school down there.

Dionys Murphy
4 months 3 weeks ago

"Must suck to be someone who has lived here legally all their lives and couldn't get into med school because someone here illegally got their spot. " -- It's so awful when those white boys are outperformed by a brown girl. Let's be honest, though. All those white boys' ancestors did to earn citizenship, other than slaughter natives by the tens of millions, was step off a boat.

Mike Theman
4 months 3 weeks ago

Um, I think that there are also US citizens who are brown girls who would like to have this non-citizen's spot in a medical school. Some of them even immigrated here legally.

Nora Bolcon
4 months 3 weeks ago

Wow! There are some seriously heartless people on this comment thread. Who says if she were not in her medical spot that someone equally qualified as she would be in her spot instead, only legal.

I would still like the U.S. to have the best doctors not necessarily the most non-immigrant drs.

What many Catholics fail to understand is that as Christians we should be viewing the stranger to our land as sacred, and as possibly sent by God and assume they might even be possible angels from God. This is a basic in Judaism as we see with Lot, and Jesus supports this too when he tells us to give to anyone who asks us.

Also, for the record, history has proven (take Germany east/west for example) immigration from poorer countries to wealthier ones almost always increases and improves the economy of the wealthier nations and often at a fast pace. This makes for good reasons to help make the illegals become legal which is all they want too. We can vet people with genuine criminal records out and still help many perfectly lovely human beings come in and stay legally.

I listen to so many of these anti-immigration folks who complain that we are becoming a Muslim nation but then they complain just as badly when Christians from the south enter into our country. They are so full of fear that they don't know who or what to fear first or why. Calm down they are just people like you and me.

Dolores Pap
4 months 3 weeks ago

Lately, I've been noticing that kindness, humility, grace and charity seems to be missing from many people who self identify as' Christian'; thank you for being a lovely example of someone who lives the faith..

Mike Theman
4 months 3 weeks ago

You're conflating illegal immigration with legal immigration. Yes, immigration of poor people can be a wonderful thing for a country's economy. But it has to be done methodically in compliance with the law, or it can wreak havoc on a country's economy. There is a process for legally coming to the US and to all countries. There are thousands following the rules and waiting in line from Guatemala and elsewhere. This gal's folks didn't want to wait and cut in line. In many other countries they would be thrown in jail.

Dionys Murphy
4 months 3 weeks ago

"You're conflating illegal immigration with legal immigration." -- You're forgetting that the majority of Americans earned their citizenship through their ancestors just stepping off a boat.

Richard Bell
4 months 3 weeks ago

“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.”
Well, if they really did come to the United States as refugees, their extreme sacrifice would have been made in staying home.

Evelyn Minnick
4 months 3 weeks ago

I agree with - Another emotional appeal. The headline uses the words "medical school" and shows a visual of a young woman in her graduation gown. Morally is this any different if the situation and headline were “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.” Well, if they really did come to the United States as refugees, their extreme sacrifice would have been made in staying home. I have been working at 24x7 assignment help as tutor and during my college time I felt something like this. The answer is there would be no moral difference so favoring one over the other is not a relevant point. The use of the situation, headline and visual is meant to create an emotion. That's why I said it was an emotional appeal and emotional appeals will not lead to a good solution. That is what the Jesuits taught me.

Debate with facts and reason. A better more widely accepted solution will appear.

Dionys Murphy
4 months 3 weeks ago

Interesting. Almost word for word a copy of J Cosgrove's posting. Two Russian trolls unmasked.

Thomas Farrelly
4 months 2 weeks ago

Don't be silly.

Bill Mazzella
4 months 3 weeks ago

True immigration needs to be orderly and economic reality has to be factored in. Yet the reality is that Evangelicals have strayed from Jesus and the Catholic bishops have historically been like the Pharisees. Too m any people go to church as wedge against other people rather than follow the Lord who came to "free the captives." Another striking reality is that we have abundant open space in this country while people are crowded in many countries. I entreat legalist Catholics to meditate on Matthew 25:36-41. What jumps out is that those who helped others were not aware of the presence of Jesus while those who did not were not aware either. Which means that meanness usually indicates the letter of the law while those whose hearts are generous believe that they cannot do enough for "the least of the sisters." The first shall indeed be last and the last shall truly be first.

Thomas Farrelly
4 months 2 weeks ago

Prescinding from any other considerations, the "open spaces" argument is fallacious. Illegal immigrants are not heading for open spaces, which lack water, electricity, jobs, food, and medicine. They are heading for already crowded cities and towns. There are plenty of such "open spaces" in the countries from which they are emigrating.

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