Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, including Xochitl Cornejo, center, march to the Capitol during the “We Are All DREAMers” rally in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.

My parents brought me to Utah from Quito, Ecuador, when I was 13 years old in search of better economic opportunities. I was sad to leave my friends and school, but choosing Utah for our new home was fortuitous. I met my wife here, had a daughter here and found my faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I also found my calling as a molecular oncologist. The bulk of my work is to process biological samples, which means I analyze patients’ blood and bone marrow specimens to see if they have cancer. I strive to work as carefully and efficiently as possible, because I know that early diagnoses can save lives.

No matter how much I feel at home in Utah, however, I have no security here. Last September, President Donald Trump announced that he was shuttering the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which gives "dreamers" like myself the legal right to work in this country. Unless Congress takes action, I could be deported along with the other 13,600 DACA recipients in our state. That means leaving my job and being separated from my wife and 2-year-old American-born child.

The March 5th deadline has come and gone, yet there is no solution in sight — even though Democrats and Republicans agree that protecting dreamers is the right thing to do. A new poll by New American Economy and TargetPoint Consulting shows that across Republican and conservative ranks, there is overwhelming support to give us a pathway to citizenship in exchange for an increase in border security. This is in spite of President Trump’s latest Tweets declaring that a DACA deal is dead.

Congress’ inability to protect the country’s 800,000 dreamers is a moral — and an economic — travesty. In Utah, more than 91 percent of dreamers are employed and pay taxes, according to NAE; nationally, the vast majority have graduated from high school and have taken at least one college course. We are also poised to help alleviate the projected shortage of 1 million workers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. These are jobs that have been disproportionately filled by immigrants like myself. I’m part of the 14 percent of STEM master’s students who are foreign nationals in Utah — many of whom are working in Silicon Slopes, the state’s fastest growing economic sector.

9 comments on this story

I’m so grateful that I was able to receive my education in Utah on a scholarship for first-generation minority students. This made it possible for me to earn my master’s degree in animal science with an emphasis on molecular biology from Utah State University. From a strictly economic point of view, it doesn’t make sense for Utah to invest in my education and not protect my ability to give back in spades.

I also want Congress to act because I’m tired of living with the constant uncertainty about my future. What will happen to me and my family if the DACA program is sacrificed for good? I’ve woken up from nightmares imagining my daughter watching me get arrested and taken away. Would we be forced to move to Canada? I can’t imagine leaving the state I love so dearly just because politicians won’t give us a chance.