The following statement can be attributed to Washington State Nurses Association Executive Director Sally Watkins, Ph.D., RN.
Across our country, nearly 800,000 young people have just been given notice that they may no longer be welcome in the only country most of them have ever called home.
These are young people who are furthering their education, serving our country and giving back to their communities. Here in Washington state, many nursing students and working nurses are training and caring for patients thanks to their DACA status. We value what these students and nurses contribute to creating better health outcomes for everyone. The research on this is clear: Patients tend to receive better quality care when health professionals mirror the ethnic, racial and linguistic backgrounds of their patients.
One of our members, Jessica Esparza, RN, completed her nursing education and works as a registered nurse at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee thanks to the DACA program. As a bilingual nurse with strong roots in the community, Jessica is often called on to translate and advocate for the patients she sees in the medical oncology unit and throughout the hospital, delivering culturally sensitive, patient-centered care. Recently, she was asked by a physician to talk to a Spanish-speaking patient about their cancer diagnosis.
Of the prospect of DACA ending she said: “When I heard about it I was very frustrated, because I’ve been working for two years and helping my community. If I don’t have a work permit, I can’t work as a nurse anymore. I’m hoping something better will come out of this.”
Stories like this are a powerful testament to the benefits of DACA, and of the urgency with which Congress should act to retain these important protections for our colleagues and members of our communities.
We support the Western Washington chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (WW-NAHN), whose Board of Directors, made the following statement:
We at WW-NAHN wish to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to supporting DACA students everywhere. Locally, we will continue to offer our inclusive scholarship, mentoring, networking opportunities and professional development goal setting. Nationwide the invaluable contributions made by DACA students are recognized and respected by at least 600 College Presidents, and we at WW-NAHN echo that sentiment with a call to action for all nursing academic settings and nursing organizations to educate themselves on what it means to be a DACA recipient, and how these students contribute to diversity in the nursing profession, and in addressing health disparities.
The requirements of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are strict: young people receiving DACA protections must have passed a background check, paid a $495 fee, and must currently be in school, serving in our military or contributing as part of our workforce.
We join the American Nurses Association in calling on Congress to work together to find a compassionate, bipartisan solution that respects the humanity of every individual affected by the President’s recent decision to rescind the executive action for those with DACA status.