WSNA member Jessica Esparza speaks out for DACA

Jessica Esparza With Parents

Jessica Esparza with her parents at her 2015 graduation from nursing school.

Jessica Esparza says she’s here to stay. She wants to keep working as a regis­tered nurse on the medical oncology unit at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. She wants to continue helping patients get through chemo, speaking with vulner­able patients in their native language and advocating for the needs of her community.

Without DACA, though, Jessica may not be able to continue doing the work she loves. Jessica is one of the nurses in Washington state who is undoc­u­mented and has a work permit only because of the Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“If I don’t have a work permit, I can’t work as a nurse anymore,” Jessica said. 

It’s that simple. And that’s why Jessica is speaking out about her DACA status and her commit­ment to continue caring for her patients. 

The day Presi­dent Trump said he was going to end DACA, Jessica wrote on Facebook that she would continue to be the best nurse she can, ​“Because my patients do not care what documen­ta­tion I have as I hold their hand and cry with them after that terminal diagnosis. Because my patient’s family does not care what color my skin is as I give CPR to their loved one. Because my patients do not care about my accent as I educate them about their chronic condi­tion. Because my patients do not care about where I am really from when I’m taking care of them.” 

Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a compre­hen­sive immigra­tion reform bill that includes addressing DACA, a program Presi­dent Obama created through execu­tive order to protect young people who were brought to the U.S. as children. 

Asked if she is afraid of being deported, Jessica said, ​“I hope it doesn’t happen. It would be kind of insane to deport someone who’s contributing to their commu­nity and is not a criminal.” 

Jessica came to the U.S. when she was 11 years old. Her mother decided the risk of crossing the border without documents was worth keeping the family together, so she followed Jessica’s father to Washington state, where he had been working season­ally as a farm laborer for many years. 

Jessica attended Big Bend Commu­nity College in Moses Lake under Washington state’s Devel­op­ment, Relief and Educa­tion for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which protects undoc­u­mented minors. She gradu­ated in June 2015 and went to work at Central Washington Hospital with a work permit provided through the DACA program. 

Losing her ability to work as a nurse would be a loss not only to Jessica, but to her patients as well. Research shows that patients tend to receive better quality care when health profes­sionals mirror the ethnic, racial and linguistic backgrounds of their patients. 

As one of only a few Spanish-speaking nurses at Central Washington Hospital, Jessica is often called on to talk with Spanish-speaking patients about such things as medica­tions and discharge instructions. 

“That way the patients go home knowing what they’re supposed to do,” Jessica said. 

She was once asked by a doctor to speak with a patient about a cancer diagnosis. It was a sensi­tive conver­sa­tion that the doctor didn’t want to have via a trans­lator on Skype. Jessica was able to talk to the patient in person, in Spanish and with sensitivity. 

The fate of DACA recip­i­ents is now in the hands of Congress. On Sept. 8, WSNA issued a state­ment that joins 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. We support nurses like Jessica who are contributing so much to the health of patients in our state. 

“The future is just uncer­tain,” Jessica said. ​“I’m hoping something better will come out of this.” 

Read the full state­ment from WSNA at http://​wsna​.to/DACAstmt