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Supreme Court To Deliver DACA Ruling Amid Protests, Pandemic


At a time when health professionals are battling the front lines of the pandemic here in the United States, thousands of them could potentially lose their jobs and be deported. The Supreme Court is expected to rule as early as this week on the constitutionality of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA. And if the court sides with the Trump administration, the United States could lose some 27,000 health care workers.

Ana Laura Gonzales is a surgical trauma ICU nurse at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, and she's also a DACA recipient. And she joins us now from Austin.

Welcome to the program.

ANA LAURA GONZALES: Hi. How are you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm OK. Let's start with your story. When did you come to the United States?

GONZALES: I came to the United States when I was about 3 years old. I think it was 1998 or so. I came with my parents and my sister.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: From which country?

GONZALES: From Mexico. Specifically, San Luis Potosi is where I was born.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What kind of work do you do in Austin? And how has the pandemic impacted your hospital?

GONZALES: So I am a surgical trauma ICU nurse. I work with patients who have been in really bad accidents or very difficult surgeries and they just need very close monitoring. And just with the pandemic, everything in the hospital is just a little bit different, just from not really allowing many visitors for the patients to just the way we do things, how we have to get screened every day going into work and the fear and anxiety that kind of, like, comes about with the pandemic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And tell me how you became a DACA recipient.

GONZALES: It came into policy in 2012. I had graduated high school, started college. By that time, I still was undecided on my major, but I was kind of leaning towards nursing. And the only thing that stopped me was I didn't have a Social Security number to be able to apply to nursing school. Therefore, I had to quickly apply for DACA. And after a few months, I received my work permit and my Social Security number. And then I was able to apply to nursing school.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the Supreme Court is set to make its decision very soon. And the Trump administration argues that DACA should be made into law through Congress. If the Supreme Court sides with the Trump administration, are you hopeful that Congress will step in, considering this is right before an election?

GONZALES: I am hopeful. I hope that they can hear our stories, that they can know that we are helping the communities. And I think there's a lot of DREAMers out there not just in the health care field that are working hard, that are making a difference in the world, in the U.S., in the community.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So lots of ifs here, but if the Supreme Court sides with the Trump administration, if Congress doesn't step in, you may face deportation, as may others. Have you made plans for that? Have you thought that through?

GONZALES: I've talked about it with my parents. And you know, we've talked about, if it happens, then I would have to go back to Mexico, and they would also move with me. I don't think they would let me live in a country that I've never really lived in by myself. But it would be very hard 'cause I'd lose everything that I've worked for here in the U.S. - my house, my job.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you sound very composed about it.

GONZALES: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I guess I'm surprised.

GONZALES: Yeah. I think a lot of people are truly surprised at work, and they're like, you look totally fine about it. But I mean, it's not just a day-to-night thing. It's - you live with it every day. But I have to find a way to cope with it, and I have to find a way to still succeed and do my job and take care of other people. I can't just stay in my room and dwell on it. And if that were to end, well, then I'll make the most of every opportunity wherever I'm at.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ana Laura Gonzales is a registered nurse and a DACA recipient in Austin, Texas.

Thank you very much.

GONZALES: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.