I am a Ph.D. student at Washington State University, studying molecular biosciences. I graduated from high school and college with highest honors. During my Ph.D. program, I hope to identify molecular targets that can be used to develop therapeutic treatments for bacterial infections. I study Coxiella burnetii bacteria, and I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to make a positive impact in the scientific community and on people’s health through my research.
I am also an undocumented immigrant. When I was 4 years old, I was brought to the United States from Mexico City by my parents. Like many other parents who have brought their kids to America, my parents wanted a better life for me. Their hopes were to give my siblings and I access to opportunities like education and the pursuit of happiness, which we do not have in our home countries. I am deeply grateful to say that my parents’ sacrifices are paying off.
I would not be where I am now if it wasn’t for DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA was created by executive order in 2012 by former President Obama. It allows certain young undocumented immigrants to obtain a work permit. Thanks to DACA, I was able to obtain a driver’s license, work summer jobs and pay my own way through college. DACA has helped undocumented immigrants like me work toward our dreams and strengthen our communities.
Nonetheless, DACA has received significant criticism. Opponents claim that programs like DACA that grant work permits for undocumented immigrants should only be passed by Congress and not created by presidents.
Congress has that opportunity. Indeed, a bipartisan bill called the BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream of Growing Our Economy) is currently in Congress and aims to provide the same work permit benefits to undocumented immigrants but in a more permanent, lawful and revised manner. Three Washington state representatives have crossed party lines to co-sponsor the BRIDGE Act: Republicans Dave Reichert and Dan Newhouse and Democrat Pramila Jayapal.
The Dream Act was also reintroduced in the U.S. Senate on July 20. It would allow young people like me a chance at lawful permanent residency. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have been strong supporters of the Dream Act. For undocumented immigrants who have been aided by DACA, the Dream Act would cement our ability to continue being productive members of our communities and our country.
I’m worried that DACA is more at risk today than ever before. Several state attorneys general have asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the program and have given him a deadline of Sept. 5. If Sessions does not comply, they will sue to challenge the legality of DACA.
I’m urging my congresswoman, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, to support and co-sponsor both of these bills. She began her public service in her twenties as a hard-working woman. I hope my representative would want to be an ally for all the other young, hard-working women in her district.
I met with her staff this summer to ask for her support. I hope she’s listening.
With DACA, I have found prosperity and hopefully a bright future in Washington state. I am here to earn a place in America through hard work and respect. I look forward to diving deeper into my scientific research and contributing to science a small but fundamental understanding on the infectious diseases that affect us.
I think Congress should want me to stay.
Marena Guzman is a doctoral student at Washington State University.