Greensboro nurse brothers face potential deportation while fighting on COVID-19 front lines

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Fighting on the front lines of the pandemic while facing potential deportation. That’s the reality for two Greensboro brothers right now.

Guillermo and Jonathan Vargas have been in the United States for 18 years. Not only are the brothers nurses in the ICU unit at a local hospital, facing the harsh realities of COVID-19, but their dream of becoming American citizens is up in the air.

“We have borders, we have rules. But the rules don’t really – haven’t really made a lot of sense when you compare it to the realities of economics and the workforce,” said Jeremy McKinney, attorney for the Vargas brothers.

The Vargas brothers are from Puebla, Mexico, and have worked for everything they have.

“I worked in everything that you can imagine. Tire shop, car shop, McDonald’s, a junkyard. It wasn’t until 2012, that Obama announced the DACA program that I was able to go back to school,” Jonathan said.

DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The two men are considered Dreamers, or people who came to the U.S. as a child, granted special immigration status.

“I’ve been here since 2002. I was 12 years old,” Jonathan said.

For these brothers, the U.S. is home despite what critics might say.

“We’re not murderers. We’re not rapists. We’re not drug dealers either. I’m a nurse, my brother is a nurse. We care for Americans. We love what we do. And this is my country,” Guillermo said.

In 2017, the Trump Administration struck down the Dreamers Act calling it unconstitutional, but there’s currently no permanent pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

Leaving Jonathan, Guillermo and nearly 700,000 others uncertain about their future in this country.

“The Trump Administration has not said if they were to win and DACA ends, do these individuals immediately become deportable? Does it last through the end of their current work permit? These are all questions that we don’t know,” McKinney said.

While they wait, the two are working to heal patients with COVID-19 at a local hospital.

“When you put on your scrubs and people look at you and they think that you’re — they don’t know what’s behind it,” Guillermo said. “They don’t know that I’m struggling every year thinking I don’t know if I’m going to be here the next year or not.”

Jonathan hopes at least one message is heard from their story, saying he is so thankful his parents dared to dream.

“They call us Dreamers, but the original dreamers are our parents. They were the ones who had the American dream, those are the ones who came here seeking for a better life for us. We’re just a result of their dreams,” he said.

Jonathan is in a different predicament than Guillermo now that he’s married. He is in the process of trying to gain citizenship through marital status.

Jonathan’s wife, Leah, also works in the same ICU unit.

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