Meet Jovan Enfermera, a dedicated healthcare provider serving people’s needs in our mountain town communities. She was once an undocumented immigrant whose parents brought her to the United States when she was six years old to seek a better life. “I was raised here in Colorado and received all of my education in Summit County. I have been part of my community for over 21 years and call Colorado my home. My American dream was to become a nurse and provide and care for those in need.” After working hard and overcoming many challenges and barriers Enfermera is achieving her dream and is a nurse currently working in Summit County part-time while pursuing a higher degree in Nursing in order to better meet the needs of the patients in our communities.
Nurses are hard to find and it is getting harder for folks to become a nurse. Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers considered a bill designed to help ease Colorado’s nursing shortage. The state needs about 500 more nurses than it currently has. Within the next six years, that deficit will expand seven-fold, to 4,500. Enfermera says, “I have seen how this shortage affects people in need of medical care. I have also seen how it affects the state’s physicians and organizations, who face their own labor shortage”.
“My patients need me, and I want to be there to help. I am currently employed part-time as a nurse and expect to be working full-time, dedicating myself fully to the nursing profession, once I complete my education. I am also fearful of having my dream destroyed.” To keep working and furthering her education Enfermera needs Congress to act.
(please note, since the time this article was published the American Dream and Promise Act in the House of Representatives (HR6) has been passed and now needs the Senates approval. At the end of June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to hear arguments on November 12, 2019, on the termination of the DACA program; further growing the significant fear and uncertainty Dreamers across the country face.
There are about 1.8 million young people like her around the country, children who were brought to the United States when they were minors. Most of these young people, of all ethnicities, can’t remember the places they were born.
Most are working and paying taxes, others are still in school. Some of these ‘Dreamers’ have bought homes and started businesses or families, and many serve in our military. The majority have had a positive impact on the economy and their communities. Enfermera says, “If we could, we would be doing so much more, but there are barriers that prevent us from giving our full potential.”
Starting in 2012, Dreamers like Enfermera were eligible for a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. If they paid a fee, passed background checks, and pledged to work, pursue higher education, or serve in the U.S. military, they could stay legally in the United States for two years.
We chose Jovan Enfermera (we have chosen to change her name in order to protect her) as a ‘Woman Who Rocks The Rockies 2018′ due to her bravery and determination to better herself and humanity with her skills and services. “DACA is the only way I get to serve my patients and community. My authorization, which is good for two years, expires in 2019. After that date, I won’t be able to legally work in this country any longer and my future as a nurse will be uncertain. I actually run the risk of being deported, not for a criminal history or felonies but for having been brought here when I was six years old.”
Members of Congress from both parties have pledged to solve this problem. Our senators, Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet, have worked together to write a bill that would allow people like her to earn citizenship after 12 years. The bill also included $25 billion for border security.
Right now the only thing keeping Dreamers with DACA protected are the decisions of two judges. The Trump administration is challenging those rulings and if a higher court agrees with the White House, DACA could immediately be shut down.
It has been over eight months since DACA was rescinded. During that time, the House of Representatives has taken hundreds of votes, but none have been to protect Dreamers.
She, and I digress, we, need Congress to pass a bill. “My patients need Congress to act. I hope that Rep. Buck will support the Dream Act or USA Act,” says Enfermera. Polls show between 80 and 90 percent of Americans think the Dreamers should be able to stay in the United States permanently.
Fortunately, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) has introduced H. Res. 774, which would enact the “Queen-of-the-Hill” rule allowing a vote on four immigration bills including the Dream Act and USA Act—both of which provide an earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Even more, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) has introduced a discharge petition that has nearly garnered support from a majority of the House. Once a majority is secured, the House will be forced to enact H. Res. 774 and vote on the four bills.
The Colorado legislature should continue to address our nursing shortage, but we hope our lawmakers in Washington will do their part to ensure Colorado doesn’t lose this determined young woman and many other caring, committed people contributing to our towns, states, and country who are living in the same situation.
If you would like to learn more about Mountain Dreamers:
by Holly Battista-Resignolo, Publisher, MTN Town Magazine