Faces of Dreamers


DACA let me become a doctor. And it’s letting me treat and care for patients that are facing this deathly pandemic right now.


On the frontlines during the coronavirus crisis, 29-year-old Dreamer Manuel worked at Advocate Christ Medical Center, one of Chicago’s busiest trauma hospitals. As a second-year medical resident in the emergency room, he has had to test and intubate patients and treat heart attacks, gunshot wounds, and car accidents injuries.

“We’re basically risking our lives,” Manuel said in an interview with The Washington Post. “But I also understand it’s part of the job I signed up for. I think it’s worth it when I see some patients come in who are extremely ill and I’m able to intervene.”

As one of the 29,000 healthcare workers who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Manuel is working on the front lines of pandemic, despite his future in the United States often feeling tenuous and uncertain.

“[DACA] let me become a doctor,” he said. “And it’s letting me treat and care for patients that are facing this deathly pandemic right now. Without DACA, none of it would have been possible.”

Coming to the United States at age two from Cuernavaca, Mexico, Manuel and his family settled in Tennessee. His parents understood the value of education as they were college graduates themselves, and from an early age pushed him to play sports and do well in school.

Thanks to his athleticism and excellent performance in school, Manuel won a private scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and enrolled in 2008. Still, until DACA began in 2012, Manuel was unable to pay for medical school. Soon after DACA became a reality, he tested for his driver’s license, took out federal loans and was accepted in the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Currently a medical resident, Manuel sometimes struggles to balance the reality of his precarious situation as a dreamer with the stress of working during a pandemic.

“It’s crazy,” Manuel said as he prepared to work another shift. “It’s like two major bad things going on at once.”