In Her Words: How DACA Opened Doors for Johana
Contributed by Joseph Law Firm client Johana Mejias-Beck:
We moved to the United States of America to have a life that our home country of Venezuela could not provide. The political instability, political coercion, the violence, and constant insecurity was something my parents did not want for their two young daughters. They made the decision of leaving everything they knew, a large extended family, without knowledge of the language, and without any money to come to the land of opportunities and freedom.
Since then, I have pledged allegiance to the Flag, sang the National Anthem, and have called this country my own. I was at the top of my high school graduating class, was a competitive athlete, and a classical musician- I felt like I was doing everything I needed to do to prepare for the university because my parents made it very clear that education was of the utmost importance. They knew that for me to follow my dreams of becoming a physician, higher education was required, and they would do everything to make it happen. However, my parents never expected that life in the United States would come with immense limitations, until the day our visas expired. It was at that moment in time, that our lives changed. We became fearful. I was ashamed of who I was, what I looked like, and where I came from. Guilt, fear, frustration, and anger were daily emotions in my life. Being undocumented was my limiting factor, and many times in my life, a defining factor. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011, with a double major in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Psychology-Neuroscience, my path came to a halt, once again. Medical schools were not openly accepting undocumented students. Why had I, and my parents, worked so hard to get to this point? While graduating from the university was an exciting time for most, it was one of the scariest times for me. I didn’t know where to go from here. However, my parents, as always, encouraged me to continue to volunteer, work hard, have patience, and most importantly, faith in this country… and so I did.
In June of 2012, our lives changed. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, enacted by President Barack Obama, opened my doors to opportunity. I was now able to continue to pursue my dreams of becoming a physician. I applied to medical schools, and was part of the first medical school class to openly accept DACA students at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine in 2014. I had the privilege of speaking on national television of what this journey as an undocumented, successful individual had been like. I knew I deserved to be in medical school. I was as qualified as my other classmates. The only difference was a sheet of paper that defined my status, but not who I was as an individual. DACA not only gave me the opportunity to attend medical school, but it brought hope back to my family. My parents are the hardest working people I know, and I owe all of my successes to them. DACA revitalized our vision of the American Dream! It reminded us that leaving Venezuela was the best decision we could have made. I will forever be grateful for DACA. It truly has changed our lives.
Four years later, as I prepare to graduate from medical school and venture into residency, its hard for me not to fear what lies ahead for the many that call this country their home- For the many that respect, admire, and deeply love the values and opportunities that this country can provide. I love this country, despite the immense limitations throughout my life.
To believe in this country, means to believe in every individual that makes this country so unique and beautiful- we deserve to be part of this nation. I ask this country to please have faith in us, just like we have had faith in it.