Here are the prepared remarks from Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz for Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA). According to United We Dream, “Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz is a third year medical student at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a leader with the New Mexico Dream Team, an affiliate group of United We Dream.”
Testimony of Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz
United States House Committee on the Judiciary March 6, 2019
Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Collins and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee, my name is Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz.
I am a third-year medical student at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
This past Friday, I completed my surgery clerkship. I hope to provide women’s health and specialize in Obstetrics and gynaecology to do what I can to ensure that all women and girls receive the excellent healthcare that they deserve.
It is my honor to be here to share my story and the stories of young people who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and what it is like to live in fear of ICE and CBP.
I want to thank you for holding this necessary hearing.
I moved to the U.S. with my mom and twin sister when my sister and I were three years old. And like most immigrant youth, I belong to a mixed-status family. My younger brothers are U.S. citizens, I am a DACA recipient, and my sister is a legal permanent resident.
We moved to Phoenix, Arizona where my mother built a loving home for our family.
In my eyes, my mother, and all immigrant parents have made great sacrifices and taken risks so that their children can thrive. They are the original dreamers.
When I was sixteen years old, my world was shaken.
My mother suffered a stroke and we feared that she wouldn’t make it.
I am happy to say that my mother recovered and is at home right now watching me testify before you today. Te quiero, mamá.
It was during this time that my twin sister and I learned of our immigration status.
In the blink of an eye, our biggest concerns went from student government and grades to living with the burden of wondering whether our mother would survive and whether ICE agents or Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio would tear our family apart.
During this time, my mother, my sister and I approached an attorney for legal advice and I will never forget his words.
He bluntly told us: “In this country, you are no one and in this country, you do not exist. You will never be able to attend college.”
I remember my throat tightening as I choked back tears while trying to process his words. My young mind could not wrap itself around them. I had done everything right. My grades, my extracurricular achievements, all of the hard work, my mother’s sacrifices didn’t matter.
We didn’t know how we would survive but we dug deep and made it—immigrant families know how to do that.
We made the decision to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where my mom could concentrate on recovering and not have to worry about Joe Arpaio anymore.
This was before DACA, and while we knew that ICE still posed a threat, we went about making friends at our new school and trying our best to get good grades.
College applications were also tricky. Despite receiving a full tuition scholarship, New Mexico State University was out of the question because of its proximity to the border. And other financial aid was difficult to come by.
I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science from the University of New Mexico. And because immigrant youth fought to be protected, the DACA program was created in 2012.
After that, life changed for me and many immigrant youth. I had access to different jobs, I could move freely in the U.S. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Unlike Dream Act legislation of years past, academic achievement was not a qualification for DACA.
This is important because even though I sit here today as a medical student, and as someone who is proud of her accomplishments; I come from a community of resilient and strong mechanics, construction workers, teachers, home care workers, cosmetologists, moms, dads and people from all walks of life who call this nation our home.
So when Donald Trump killed DACA, my mental health was shot.
Here I am once again, having worked hard and made it to medical school and was facing the reality of having a future career as a physician being pulled out from under me.
And I know that I’m not alone. While I am on my way to becoming a physician, I know that others with DACA, TPS and DED protections have started careers, bought homes, started families.And here we were facing all of that being taken away.
I know what life would be like without DACA because I see it every day.
With the New Mexico Dream Team and United We Dream, young people and allies brought counseling to the community because children were terrified, fearful that their parents would be taken away by Trump and CBP and ICE.
I’ve visited the Cibola ICE Detention Center, which is run by the Core Civic Corporation, to help uncover the mistreatment of trans women and queer men who reported being abused by the guards.
Ladies and gentlemen, the tents and cells where immigrant children are being held in detention along the border bring back memories of Arpaio’s Arizona tent city and shakes me to my core.
I know that some say that young people with DACA should be protected for a price. They call for more immigration enforcement which would put my mother in danger in exchange for my safety.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I come before you today as the PRODUCT of my community. So protecting me in exchange for increased danger for my community is not protection at all.
I come to ask that you pass legislation to provide for permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship.
And I ask that you not use my plight as a DACA recipient who could become vulnerable to ICE and CBP as leverage to increase the power of those enforcement agencies.