Mithi DR, 31, Los Angeles, CA, Born in the Philippines
It has taken me 26 years to become a legal resident, so I know far too much about deferred dreams. I first came to the U.S. with my family. Although we had hopes of sponsorship through a job for my father, things didn’t work out and we joined the ranks of the undocumented. I have two sisters and a brother, all of whom found paths to citizenship. Our family is very close and we are fortunate that we were never forced to separate.
When my mom was able to adjust her status, she sponsored me as her unmarried daughter under 21. After I turned 21, I “aged out,” falling into another immigration category with a much longer line — an additional nine-year waiting period. DACA provided an interim reprieve until I was declared a legal resident in August 2015.
Graduating from UCLA in 2006, I dreamed of becoming a physician. Being undocumented prevented me from even being allowed to apply to medical school and kept me from qualifying for federal financial aid. It was painful to put my dreams on hold, but I didn’t give up. Eventually, my DACA status opened a lot of doors for me, including the door to medical school.
Through the nine long years of waiting to get into medical school, I worked in research at UCLA and I published my work in respected academic journals. I am the first author of a piece on temperament in infants at risk of developing autism. I co-authored reviews on Latino health, which will soon appear in Oxford Bibliographies. As I continue my work on autism projects, I’m also a staff researcher at the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture.
In addition to my research interests, I am an active member of my community. I work as a peer mentor for a pipeline program called MEDPEP, guiding disadvantaged minority undergraduates toward their pre-health goals, and I serve as an advocate with Pre-Health Dreamers, a nationwide network of undocumented students seeking access to health careers.
It has been a long journey, but my experiences as an undocumented immigrant have only intensified my motivation to study medicine. My goal is to become a primary-care physician, practicing in disadvantaged neighborhoods and helping those who are so often neglected by the U.S. healthcare system.
I am a generous and loving person, and it makes me sad when I’m asked to justify my presence in this country. This is my home. I work hard to contribute to this country. And I’m just getting started.