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My name is Yesenia, and I am a DACA recipient and a nurse. As of a few weeks ago, I have been a nurse primarily in the COVID-19 unit at my local hospital in Indiana, where I live.

Since COVID-19 began, my world, along with everyone else's, has been flipped upside down. It is hard to express how much my job has changed since COVID-19. I knew when I went into critical care nursing that I would have unexpected situations at work. I never thought there would be a whole floor of uncertainties. It is really overwhelming when you know that you are not enough for what is to come. But you always try your best. 

During this time, I have had to be a stronger advocate for my patients because their families are not able to be there with them, so it is all up to me, as their nurse in the room. Even if it just means seeing a familiar face or holding a hand, you become what they need you to be at that moment. 

There is one patient I think will stay with me for the rest of my career. Usually, when someone is close to the end of their life, their family can come in and talk to them, let them know that it is okay to let go. This patient did not have that option--because of the virus, their family could not come in. Therefore, I sat down with my patient and prayed with them, and I think this allowed my patient to accept that they were not alone in their final hours.  We both cried over it and my patient died a few hours later. 

It is difficult to explain what you go through as your patient is passing away and you are the last face that they see, or your hand is the last hand that they hold. I have argued and advocated for my patient’s care because they are too weak and because no one else is there for them. I have had to ease a mother’s worry over the phone as her baby is being rushed into surgery due to COVID-19 complications. It is very traumatic to have a casual conversation with your patient one minute and the next minute they go into sudden respiratory arrest. Or to start seeing your colleagues come down with COVID-19 themselves.

While DACA was in a state of uncertainty for so many years, I had been thinking a lot about what comes next. I would not be where I am today had it not been for DACA. NIJC supported me and many others with obtaining and renewing my DACA, and was part of the movement to pass Senate Bill 419 in Indiana, which allowed me and other DACA recipients to sit for our licensing exams and become licensed as nurses. I think part of the reason I am in nursing, and why I give it my all with every shift, is because I sense that I do not know how long I can keep being a nurse. Many of my colleagues can plan their careers, their lives for 10, 20 years at a time. But as a DACA recipient, I can only count on the next two years, until the next renewal. Right now, with the program up in the air, I live in fear and a bit of sadness.  

With this pandemic, the whole nation and world are facing anxieties around the economy, education, employment, new laws, securing work and housing, accessing services and transportation. These difficulties are not new to me: these are just a few of the struggles that all immigrants face. However, we are now all facing them as a species. The life that we knew ceased to exist, you could say that we all became immigrants to a whole new world. 

Watch Yesenia read a part of her testimony here: 

Video edited by Prime 312