WASHINGTON (CN) – Medical school is a difficult undertaking for any young hopeful in the field. On Wednesday, Congress heard testimony from one student born to undocumented immigrants about how her status makes the task often seem impossible.
Recalling a panic attack that crippled her before a major exam, Yazmin Irazoqui-Ruiz offered a personal account of how immigrants are grappling with the the Trump administration’s effort to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
DACA, as the federal program is more commonly known, came into force during the Obama administration, allowing certain qualifying young immigrants who might otherwise be at risk of deportation to obtain work permits and driver’s licenses.
“I’m working so hard right now,” Ruiz said, remembering the tears she shed in between study sessions, punctuated by fears of deportation. “At the end of the day it would be worth nothing.”
Around the same time that it targeted DACA, the Trump administration attempted in 2017 to cancel Temporary Protected Status that had been granted to immigrants who face dangerous conditions in their home countries.
Ruiz was one of eight witnesses to testify Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee about the personal toll of such policy shifts.
“There is nothing temporary about our family’s life,” said Jose Palma, who is a TPS holder. “We have given some of our best years to this country. Our lives are proof of the promise of resilience.”
Yatta Kiazolu is a 28-year-old studying for her doctorate in history at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In her 22 years participating in Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberian nationals, Kiazolu has not been back once to country she left as a toddler.
Another DACA recipient, Jin Pak testified about how he felt the sting of his temporary status during a volunteer sign-up at his local hospital.
Born to working-class parents from Korea, Pak said he was turned down because they couldn’t accept “illegal aliens.”
Though Pak is eligible to study at Oxford in England this fall under a Rhodes scholarship, he said he worries that the United States will not let him back when his studies conclude. “That’s the perpetual reality of being undocumented,” Pak said. “No matter how hard I work or what I achieve, I never know if I have a place in America.”
Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, assured Irazoqui-Ruiz and the others that he, at least, was “one member of Congress who knows this is your country.”
Other lawmakers at the hearing were divided, however, on which administration is to blame for the policy changes.
Representative Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, told the witnesses that they were “used as pawns to score political points” in a “radical Democratic agenda” that encouraged undocumented migration.
But Representative David Cicilline said the truth is the other way around.
“You should not be used as bargaining chips,” the Rhode Island Democrat said to an applause of finger snaps.