Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Despite their uncertain future, thousands of DACA health care workers fight coronavirus

Cinthya Ramírez’s greatest fear is spreading the coronavirus to her parents and younger brother when she comes home from her nursing shift at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the largest hospital in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.

“I take every precaution before entering the house. I take off my clothes, clean my phone and go straight to the shower. The rest is in the hands of God,” Ramírez, 24, tells Telemundo News. Ramírez, who came to the United States from Mexico when she was 4, graduated with a nursing degree just three years ago.

She’s one of an estimated 29,000 health care workers — nurses and health aides, paramedics, technicians and doctors — who are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic but who face an additional worry. They are enrolled in the DACA program.

But the Trump administration has fought to end the program, and by the end of June the Supreme Court will announce its decision to allow the president to shut it down or to side with lower courts that have kept DACA going. In a recent letter to the Supreme Court, a group of legal organizations asked the justices to take into account the context of the current pandemic.

Ana Cueva, 27, who works as an intensive care nurse at a small community hospital near Sacramento, California, says the number of patients with COVID-19 symptoms has skyrocketed in a matter of days. She renewed her DACA application in February, so she has a work permit for two years. But the decision the Supreme Court makes in June could change her life.

“There is not a time of day when I don’t think that maybe this was the last time I could renew my DACA. I am here, I voluntarily put my life at risk and go to work happily,” Cueva says. “Losing more employees would cause major failures to the health system.”