Padilla Announces DACA Recipient Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez as Guest for 2024 State of the Union

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, announced that Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, will be his guest at President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union Address to Congress. Dr. Rojas Marquez is an emergency room resident physician at Boston Medical Center and the co-founder of Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD), a national organization that serves over 1,000 young immigrants pursuing careers in health care.

“Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez is the embodiment of the American Dream, overcoming systematic barriers to health coverage, education, and employment as she and her family lived in perpetual fear of deportation. After DACA enabled her to achieve her dream of attending medical school, Denisse has dedicated her life toward inspiring and training the next generation of medical professionals while working every day to provide life-saving care for communities in need,” said Senator Padilla. “But far too many hardworking undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children like Denisse — who are Americans in all but citizenship — are forced to live in uncertainty and fear, with no pathway to citizenship in reach. As the President highlights the need for Congress to act to modernize our immigration system, I hope to make it clear to the Administration and my colleagues: we must provide a pathway to citizenship for these Dreamers and the long-term undocumented residents who work in essential jobs and contribute billions to our economy annually. As the proud son of immigrants, I will always fight alongside people like Denisse to make sure that our immigrant communities are not left behind.”

“I am honored by Senator Padilla’s invitation to join him as a guest,” said Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez. “This means a great deal to me. Growing up in California as an undocumented person, I always lived in fear, knowing that at any moment I could be deported. Although my DACA status provided me temporary relief and allowed me to pursue a medical career, I continue to live in limbo, along with thousands of other deserving individuals across the nation. As I work to empower the next generation of immigrant students in our health care workforce, I commend allies like Senator Padilla who are leading the fight to give undocumented families a voice in Congress and expanding opportunities for immigrants to continue serving as the backbone of our nation. Senator Padilla has been a champion in advocating for expanded pathways to citizenship, which would protect people like me who are working towards the American Dream under constant fear and uncertainty.”

Dr. Denisse Rojas Marquez is a resident emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center where she works to provide care to underserved communities in the Boston area. She and her family immigrated from Mexico to Fremont, California when she was less than a year old, and they constantly feared being detained by immigration officials. After witnessing family members lack access to health coverage and growing up going to low-cost health clinics, Dr. Rojas Marquez dreamed of serving her community as a physician and was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley in 2007.

Dr. Rojas Marquez faced significant barriers in college. She was ineligible for financial assistance, so she commuted over an hour each way to school, and she lacked proper documents to participate in many academic opportunities. When DACA arrived in 2012, Dr. Rojas Marquez could finally secure a driver’s license, obtain employment, and start her medical career. Around the same time, she co-founded Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD), where she helped champion initiatives and state legislation to help DACA recipients and undocumented students receive acceptance to medical school and other health professional programs. Over 50 medical schools will now consider applicants with DACA. However, Dr. Rojas Marquez — like other DACA recipients who are completing their medical training — faces yet another hurdle to her planned medical career. Because of the constant uncertainty of the DACA program, it is unclear whether upon graduation she will be able to obtain a medical license and practice as a doctor. Despite everything she has done and accomplished, the failure to pass permanent protections for DACA recipients and Dreamers keeps her and others like her in limbo.

Dr. Rojas Marquez has now spent a decade working to promote health care and access to higher education for immigrant communities, working on the front lines providing care to patients in Boston’s emergency room during the COVID-19 pandemic. She holds a medical degree from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is a 2016 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, which supports immigrants or children of immigrants poised to make significant contributions to the United States, and a 2021 recipient of the Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Health care, which recognizes extraordinary impact on humanism in healthcare. 

Senator Padilla has fought relentlessly to expand pathways to citizenship, including through legislation to expand a pathway to permanency for millions of long-term U.S. residents. He repeatedly condemned the proposed threats to the asylum system and lack of legalization provisions in the national security supplemental aid package considered by the Senate last month, and he called on his colleagues and the White House to include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and other long-standing undocumented residents in the supplemental. His bill, the Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929 Act, would update the existing Registry statute so that an immigrant may qualify for lawful permanent resident status if they meet certain conditions, providing a much-needed pathway to a green card for more than 8 million people, including Dreamers, TPS holders, children of long-term visa holders, essential workers, and highly skilled members of our workforce.

He also introduced the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers, including Dreamers.


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