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Valley nurse, DACA recipient in the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 worries about her legal status

Karen Garcia works at a Phoenix hospital fighting the coronavirus outbreak, and now she can only hope the Supreme Court will uphold her ability to keep fighting.

PHOENIX — “They said 2020 is going to be the year of the nurse, and yeah, it’s that way," said Karen Garcia.

For this nurse, 2020 has been a year of sacrifices.

“We house the patients that are ruling out or have been confirmed positive 

Night after night, she checks on her patients on a floor isolated from the rest of the hospital, It’s reserved for those who need treatment for symptoms of the coronavirus.

“As much as I could want to limit my contact with them, I know they need that human to human,” said Karen. 

And like so many healthcare workers, she has a backup plan, and that is to move into a hotel to protect her own family if she were to become sick.

“Even though it might be hard to step away for a couple of weeks, my main goal is to keep everybody in my household safe,” she added.

But it isn’t just the virus Karen worries could separate her from her family.

Karen is a DREAMER, an immigrant who was brought to the United States as a child – living and working in this country under a protected status called DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Spanish version: Enfermera combatiendo el COVID-19 en primera fila, con futuro incierto debido a su estatus legal

It’s an immigration policy the Trump administration has moved to eliminate and the Supreme Court is expected to rule on this summer.

"What if they take it away? There are so many DACA nurses out there that can be used and healthcare workers, CNAs respiratory therapists and it's just like, now we need the help more than ever," she expressed her concerns. 

Karen is one of more than an estimated 25,000 DACA-recipients working in healthcare across the country, fighting the global pandemic.

"So what do I worry about? Do I worry about my safety or do I worry about my status in the country?"

We have so much to contribute to this country, this country we feel is our own,” Karen said. 

Immigration attorneys say many DACA recipients can still renew their status as the Supreme Court deliberates on the case – which could extend their legal protections to stay in the U.S. for another two years.

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