I was 18 years old when I walked into my organic chemistry professor’s office and asked to take my final exam a month early. He looked at me confused “What’s going on Edith?” “Sir, I have to leave the country in a few weeks” I said. My dad picked me up from my college dorm. His eyes watered as he apologized to me for “failing me.” No dad, you did not fail me- being forced to return to our native Venezuela only fueled me. Today, as the Trump administration threatens to suspend DACA, I want to share with all dreamers what happened before, during, and after my return to Venezuela.
You see, from ages 14 to 18 I went to high school and college with American teens. I dreamed with American teens, as if I too was allowed. Sometimes I think I dreamed even more than my American friends dreamed. I wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to help people, I wanted to travel the world learning and helping, and once my English was a little better, I wanted to speak up for the health and the needs of immigrant communities. The day I found out I had to go back to Venezuela, I felt like my dreams had all crumbled in front of me. I cried until my eyes, my head, and my whole body hurt. What I didn’t know then and what I want to share with you now is this: nothing, nothing, could stop this immigrant from dreaming. My dreams had become a part of me.
We packed the same small bags we had arrived with and went back to Venezuela. I soon realized I no longer really knew the country where I’d spent my childhood years. There were now shortages in basic food items, colleges were often on strikes, and daily life was a struggle. I would never be able to get a spot in the best medical school in the country if I didn’t have “connections” I was told. What they didn’t know is that given the chance, this girl would obtain the top grade in the entrance exam- and they would not be able to take the spot from me. I woke up at 5 am every day and started my journey to Caracas, with faith and with joy. My parents had found jobs 12 hours away, so I stayed with a cousin and worked. What did I do? I taught English, the only tangible skill I had then.
A year passed, and by some crazy turn of fate, my dad- the same dad that had apologized through tears- found a way for us to return to this country. The girl that came back to this country was not the same girl that had left. My parents had sacrificed too much; I had worked too hard and had seen too much suffering. I have now become a pediatrician, I have traveled the world, I have helped countless children, and my English is good enough they even let me speak on national television.
Dear dreamer I want you to know that for you it is also too late- your dreams, your struggles, and your appreciation for your family’s sacrifices have changed you forever. When this world sees your determination, your skills, the love, and the light that comes from you, the universe will conspire to help you. There are no boundaries, no legal status, no hateful policy that will ever contain all that you represent. Trust in yourself, and trust in your destiny.