1) Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was only 10 months old when I immigrated to Rhode Island from Portugal with my parents. Most who immigrate to the US in this manner are unable to adjust to legal status, contrary to the rhetoric we hear from the current administration.
As a teenager, I spent a lot of time worrying; worrying whether I would be able to obtain a driver’s license or get a job after graduating High School. Then, on June 15, 2012, the announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program changed my life.
As soon as I was eligible, I applied to the DACA program. I trusted my government — I submitted all of my past addresses, school records, photocopies of my original passport, and a $465 fee (now $495) — in the hope that I would be able to pursue a life somewhat resembling normalcy. My application was accepted, granting me a Social Security Number, and a renewable two-year work permit.
But my dreams were shattered last September when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA would come to an end. The end of DACA means that all that I have worked for is in jeopardy. If we do not act to protect DREAMers, I will lose my job. I will be unable to drive to work or continue my education.
That is why we must act to protect Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants in our state. If Congress will not act, then it is on us to protect our families, friends, and neighbors.
2) How have your personal experiences influenced your political activism and organizing?
I got involved in the fight for reproductive rights, tackling the challenges (as a Generation Action Intern at Planned Parenthood) that immigrants face when accessing healthcare in our state.
Healthcare access is an issue that is important to me: as an undocumented immigrant who identifies under the LGBTQ umbrella, I struggle to access healthcare and other crucial services. There is an “access gap” in Rhode Island, where parts of our community are unable to obtain healthcare, access education, or get a driver’s license due to arbitrary regulations.
3) What effects have you seen to your political activity and organizing?
There has been a dramatic shift in the narrative to protect undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island. Just years ago, there was a lack of political will, and the opposition organized to oppose immigrant rights: I vividly remember being yelled at while at the State House, being told to “go home” — home to a country that I do not know.
And now, thanks to the hard work of our organizers and supporters, we have a better chance than ever to pass legislation that will protect DREAMers in Rhode Island. We have the momentum and the support needed to get this legislation through.
4) Over the course of the last year we have seen the Trump administration make numerous attacks on immigrants and their right to health care, what do you think are the potential impacts of these attacks?
Immigrants will be afraid of going to the doctor. They will postpone care. Hospitals and schools are supposed to be considered sensitive spaces in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could not enter. Now, that is up in the air: ICE has made it clear that every undocumented immigrant is considered a priority for deportation.
The current administration has also attacked legal immigrants. Earlier this year, the administration considered targeting legal immigrants if they utilized programs such as SNAP or WIC. And just the threat of that has had a devastating effect, as enrollment has dropped in several states as a result of fear.
5) In light of these attacked to immigrants and the undermining of reproductive health care, what proactive actions could the state of Rhode Island take to increase health care rights and access?
Administratively, Rhode Island can adopt policies that protects patients, including providing know-your-rights signage, reminding healthcare providers that immigrant patients are also entitled to privacy, and other proactive steps that can make the doctor’s office a safer place to be for the immigrant community.
We must also take steps to lowering the cost of healthcare — often one of the biggest barriers as undocumented immigrants cannot purchase healthcare through the exchange.
6) If anyone reading this wants to get involved can you tell them where they should start?
Rep. Maldonado’s bill (H7982) will be up for a floor vote on Thursday, April 12th. Join me at the Gallery in the Rhode Island State House in support at 4:00 pm and show that we want the General Assembly to protect DREAMers.
Sign up to volunteer in the fight for immigrant rights: https://goo.gl/forms/