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“My name is Denisse Rojas Marquez. I am 28 years old old, a proud undocumented American and soon to be doctor”

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At Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled, Oversight of the Administration’s Decision to End Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), one of the witnesses is Denisse Rojas Marquez, a DACA recipient. This is her testimony:

Thank you Chairman, I would also like to thank ranking member Feinstein, and members of this committee for giving me the opportunity to testify today. It is a great honor.

My name is Denisse Rojas Marquez, I am 28 years old, and I am one of roughly 800,000 individuals approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The United States has been my home for twenty-seven years. I consider myself a hard-working undocumented American, a proud Californian, and most recently a New Yorker. I am currently studying medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  After graduation, I intend to work as a doctor in underserved communities here in the United States.

My family and I settled in Fremont, California from Mexico in 1990 when I was less than a year old. I took my first steps in a two-bedroom apartment where I spent most of my childhood. My mother tells me that before I started school, I was so eager to speak in English that I would call my relatives over the phone, declare I had learned English, and proceed to speak in gibberish. From volunteering as an alter server at my church to teaching second grade students how to read; I spent my teenage summers giving back to my community.  

While attending college at UC Berkeley, my situation became difficult. Commuting over an hour each way to school and lacking proper documents to participate in many academic opportunities were just some of the obstacles I faced. My family and I also feared being detained by immigration officials. Because of these fears, we lived in a nondescript apartment complex where our unit was tucked away in the furthest corner from the street. I felt terrified leaving my home most days, looking over my shoulder to see if someone was following me. I also constantly worried about my future.  

When DACA arrived in 2012, it was a relief to so many, like myself, who could continue their educational endeavors, resume their careers or simply let themselves dream of a better future. I diligently filled out my application which included a thorough background check. It felt surreal when my DACA approval came in the mail; my sister and I held each other in tears.  DACA was the answer that lifted the ceiling to my educational and career ambitions. DACA was the key to securing a driver’s license, obtaining employment, and gaining acceptance to medical school. DACA lifted me out of the shadows; I no longer lived in fear.

In the years since the DACA announcement, I have been able to finish college, publish in a top academic journal, and co-founded a national organization called Pre-Health Dreamers, which serves roughly 800 undocumented youth like myself who have aspirations of becoming health professionals.

My successes are also rooted in the lessons my family taught me growing up. Leaving Mexico with less than a high school education, my mother, in America, learned English, attained a high school equivalency diploma, and a nursing degree. Watching her study chemistry into the night while providing for my siblings and me, taught me hard work, determination, and resiliency. My father, who has worked in a variety of trades taught me that the two most important ingredients for success are humility and creativity.

Nearly a month ago, on September 5, President Trump announced he was ending DACA. To me, this means I will not be able to practice as a doctor. I don’t know how I’ll survive after graduation; how will I be able to pay my rent, pay off my loans, have income for food, and other basic necessities? In the past 5 years, 800,000 have submitted applications, undergone extensive background checks, and completed other requirements. Because of DACA, people have been able to find employment, start families, buy homes, go to school and even start businesses; DACA has allowed us to lead almost normal lives and give back to our communities.  

Now, the fates of 800,000 individuals rest in your hands and we desperately need your help. If Congress doesn’t act soon and DACA expires on March 5, 2018 an estimated fourteen hundred people like me will lose their DACA every day. People will lose their jobs, their homes, and all those who depend on them will suffer too. I implore the president to continue the DACA program and protect DACA recipients, until congress acts to pass a permanent solution. And I am asking you to pass the DREAM Act; legislation that provides a long term solution for all undocumented youth and young adults.

My name is Denisse Rojas Marquez. I am 28 years old old, a proud undocumented American and soon to be doctor. I have loved this country for as long as I can remember. For me and so many others, it is the only country we know and the only place we belong. The clock is ticking, so I ask you this: Will you fight to defend our dreams?