Edison S, 29, Saratoga Springs, Utah, Born in Ecuador
No matter how much success I enjoy or education I attain, I always see myself as an immigrant, someone who is both proud of his roots and striving to prove his right to belong in America. As a clinical molecular biologist technologist, I examine human specimens to detect cancer and I treat all the specimens the same – the person’s race, gender, religion or country of origin from the specimens are not important. What matters is detecting the cancer early and getting the report right so that treatment can be prescribed. The patients, whose specimens I’m examining, don’t care where I was born; they just want me to be good at my job.
This is how I wish all of us treated each other and this is how I live my life. I work through my Mormon faith to promote tolerance in my community and also have taught others in a spiritual way when I had the chance to serve my church. Family is everything to me and my faith is very personal since it helped my father find himself when he didn’t have a spiritual path back home.
I have lived in the States most of my life having been brought here with my sister and infant brother when I was just a young teenager. We overstayed our tourist visa because my parents wanted a better life for their three children. Now that I have an infant daughter of my own, I completely understand their decision. I would do anything to ensure her safety and well-being.
My parents, though now permanent residents, have worked hard all their lives to provide for their family. My mom still works seven days a week cleaning hotel rooms and my father works two jobs six days a week. They barely make minimum wage but they persevere for their children, and we are doing our best to make them proud.
I have two bachelor’s degrees in biology and biotechnology. I also have an MS in animal science with a molecular biology focus. My sister has a BA and my brother is doing well in high school and in his jobs.
When I first entered ESL classes in middle school, I didn’t know any English. By the time I graduated high school, I had earned a 3.99 GPA, grades that got me into Utah State with a full scholarship. When I graduated with two degrees, I still had no real future because I was undocumented. But DACA changed my life. I had been working in hotels to earn a living, but with a work permit, I was welcomed into the animal science department at Utah State where I got a chance to earn my master’s as I studied the characterization and potential utility of porcine trophoblast derived stem-like cells– an invaluable opportunity for my future work with humans. I had the best mentors in the field, which I consider a blessing, and I will always be grateful to them. I was even invited to continue in the doctoral program, but I was getting married and wanted to be able to earn the money needed to support a family.
My marriage is a dream come true after four years of a long-distance relationship. I first met my wife-to-be when she was in the States visiting her uncle who was a recruiter for Utah State. It was love at first sight, but she had to return to Mexico and we could only see each other when we could afford flights for her to visit. She was in her second year of law school in Mexico when she obtained a student visa and we are now together. She is continuing to work on her law degree, even if we have to pay international tuition which is very expensive. We have just bought a home and have started our family.
For the past three years, I’ve worked for ARUP Laboratories, an American national reference laboratory affiliated with the University of Utah. It is here that I’m a clinical molecular biology technologist.
It appears I’m living the American Dream. I have always believed that if I worked hard and lived a good life, I could earn my citizenship. Some of my undocumented friends married American citizens to get green cards. I would never do that. I married for love.
I am paying my way, buying a home, covering my wife’s college and my daughter’s birth. I am giving back to my community and encouraging people to be their best selves. I wish that those who are anti-immigration would look at what immigrants have contributed to this country, how much all of us add to the prosperity of the nation.
We may come with just what we can carry but it’s not what we own that matters. It’s what’s in our hearts, our determination to overcome all obstacles and to not give up. This is what makes America strong – the sacrifices and potential of the endless line of immigrants. I’m proud to have taken my place with all those who have gone before, but I am always uncertain about my family’s future, especially with all the threatening political rhetoric. My life is here – my immediate family, my church and my work. My extended family is still in Ecuador and I haven’t been able to see them for 17 years, but this is all part of the sacrifice made to live life in America. All I want is acceptance, a chance to show that I make a positive difference in this country and a path to citizenship that will grant me some much needed certainty about my future. I know that if I’m just given the opportunity to stay, I will be as American as anyone born here.