Back in high school, I fell in love with the brain. Learning its intricacies and mysteries in AP psychology felt like exploring space. I wanted to be like the neuroscientists and researchers who were studying depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s — and in their work, improving so many lives.
Today I’m doing just that. I’m a sophomore neuroscience major and pre-med student at the University of Colorado Boulder. With rising rates of mental health disorders and other brain conditions — and the lack of physicians to treat them — I know my career choice will make a positive impact.
Unfortunately, one critical thing stands in my way: my immigration status. I’m a dependent on my father’s high-skilled work visa — but my legal status evaporates once I turn 21 in a few months. At that point, I’ll likely have to self-deport, upending my education and my dreams of becoming a doctor in this country.
Sadly, my parents couldn’t have foreseen this situation when we immigrated here in 2013 for my dad’s cyber security job. We were told we’d secure green cards and eventually become citizens. In fact, we’ve been waiting for our green card applications to be processed for eight years now. A severe backlog of applications, plus the limited number of visas granted to immigrants from highly populated countries like our native India, means our wait could stretch decades or longer.
My automatic loss of legal status at 21 is a baffling rule in our immigration system. Why would America recruit foreign talent like my father, educate kids like me at taxpayer-funded schools and then deport us just as we reach working age? There are more than 200,000 young people like me, and nearly 90% are pursuing or plan to purse STEM and healthcare careers. We have become known as “Documented Dreamers,” and we’ve been advocating for the America’s Children Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress last month that fixes a loophole that forces American-raised and educated children to leave the country.
I’ve lived in America since age 11 and spent my teenage years here in Colorado. I grew up scaling the Manitou Incline and exploring new trails with my friends. Today, at CU Boulder, I volunteer at a campus food bank and campus fundraisers. The idea of being forced to leave my parents and start over in a foreign country makes me sick to my stomach. I turn 21 this June. I am dreading it.
I just want to graduate, go to medical school and become a doctor in Colorado. The pandemic taught us the value of our health care workers — and how we don’t have enough of them. We saw doctors, nurses, technicians and assistants work at breakneck speeds, taking on caseloads far beyond their capacity. The average wait time for a doctor’s appointment has long been on the rise, up 24% since 2004, according to a survey of 15 metropolitan cities. Rural areas tend to have far fewer physicians on average, with 135 U.S. counties lacking a single physician, according to the American Immigration Council. In response to these shortages, there’s been a nationwide push to recruit young people to join the field.
I’m one of those aspiring medical professionals. Colorado has struggled with a shortage of healthcare professionals for years. Statewide, the number of online job postings for doctors has increased by 23.2% from 2017 to 2021. We’re expected to need an additional 1,773 primary care physicians by 2030. Nationally, some 135 U.S. counties have had no physicians per 100,000 residents for nearly a decade.
There are literally thousands of American-raised young immigrants across the country who are eager to answer this call. But we can’t do it if our immigration system kicks us out.
That’s why I’m asking my fellow Coloradans to voice their support for the America’s Children Act. Let Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. John Hickenlooper and the entire Colorado Congressional delegation (especially Republicans like Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Lauren Boebert) know that you stand with us. Improve the Dream has templates to make it easy for you to call or submit a letter to your representative. We grew up in the U.S. We were educated alongside you or your children. We are your neighbors. We only want to stay and serve.