Editor’s Note: This profile is part of a series on DACA recipients. Continue to stay updated with the Daily Lobo for more information.
Yazmin Irazoqui is a medical student at the University of New Mexico and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient.
Irazoqui and her twin sister, Jazmin Coronel, grew up in Phoenix, Arizona where they quickly learned they were expected to assimilate, she said.
“In Phoenix they would send letters home telling my mother not to let us speak Spanish, and their caveat was, ‘It’ll help them learn the language faster.’ So actually growing up, my sister and I, we lost our native...language, and when I was an undergrad, I decided to do Spanish as a major, because I had lost my language,” Irazoqui said.
With Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s actions against immigrants, raids became a commonality in Phoenix, and “things were getting ugly,” Irazoqui said. “There were raids at people’s work, there were raids at public places. You go to the grocery store, and people would catch themselves in a raid. So we decided that we were going to move.”
Irazoqui and her family moved to New Mexico where she and Coronel would face new systematic challenges.
“Jazmin and I didn’t really understand what it meant to be undocumented,” Irazoqui said. “One, because we learned about it in our late teens, but when it came to applying to universities, that’s kind of when it started to click...Even just applying, every application has a question for a social security number, which is very fear-inducing.”
In addition to the obstacles of paying for and being accepted into college, Irazoqui also had to be concerned about her safety at the school of her choice, she said.
“I got accepted to some pretty big schools, and my mother sat me down and said, ‘Listen, we came here because here you are going be able to get in-state tuition, and you are going to be able to get access to those scholarships. All these other places, I can’t afford them, and if they don’t give you scholarships, I don’t want to get your hopes up.’ So that was that,” Irazoqui said.
She and her sister were accepted into New Mexico State University, but then their mother told them there was an immigration checkpoint between Las Cruces and Albuquerque, Irazoqui said. Thus, the sisters opted to attend UNM.
Once Irazoqui was enrolled at UNM, she was denied from the UNM school of nursing twice.
“On paper it was because I wasn’t considered a resident of the state of New Mexico, even though I fulfilled all the residency criteria,” she said.
Before DACA was announced, Irazoqui met with various advisors that told her they could not guarantee that if she were to graduate from the program, she would be able to work as a nurse.
“So I was turned down twice, and I switched majors halfway through my education. The plan was still medical school, so I just switched my four-year degree to something else,” she said.
After graduating from UNM with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Spanish with a minor in Chemistry and the University Honors Program, Irazoqui applied for DACA.
“It was a very stressful application, because half of our paperwork was still in Phoenix, and calling over there to get the paperwork was not the most pleasant experience,” she said. “By the time I got my DACA, ironically, (it) was November of 2016, right around the elections. I remember opening (it and the) feeling when it finally came in. I was like, ‘I finally exist in this system, I finally exist.’ And then the elections happened, and I was like, ‘Well that’s worth nothing now.’”
After Irazoqui finished her second year of medical school in December of 2016, she took a leave of absence to volunteer for the Dream Team.
“I went crawling back to the Dream Team, and I told them what can I do, ‘I’ll volunteer for you, I’ll do whatever you want me to do, but let me be a part of this fight that we have coming,’” Irazoqui said. “I figured that if there was a time to join the fight full on, it was going to be during the first year of the Trump administration. And they did, and they took me back this past year and I’ve been working as a community organizer. I was the central New Mexico field organizer.”
The Dream Team showed Irazoqui the fight and struggle it was to win something like DACA and the affect DACA has.
“I had no idea of the work that had gone into achieving something like DACA to get relief for almost 1 million people, and then I kind of stumbled into the Dream Team, and I learned about all of these things like antiracism and about community organizing and leadership development, which was a whole new world to me,” she said.
When it comes to DACA recipients, “it doesn’t matter if you’re in school, it doesn’t matter if you’re working in construction, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make you any less worthy or worthier — we are all human. And they want to strip us of that aspect of ourselves,” Irazoqui said.
By volunteering for the Dream Team, Irazoqui found a sense of community and embraces new aspects of herself, she said.
“I identify more with community, and so I’m very connected to my community and to my people. And I realized that my accomplishments are not just my own accomplishments; there have been a lot of people (that have) come before me, my mother included, who had sacrifices, who have fought so that I can be in these spaces that are not meant for people like me, so I can be sitting in a lecture hall at the medical school, be loud and telling them I’m not the only one and I won’t be the last one to pass through these doors facing these struggles,” Irazoqui said.
Amy Byres is a culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She primarily writes profiles on DACA recipients. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amybyres12.