In a pointed political statement designed to put a human face on the immigration issue, a former Fresno resident and University of California, Merced, alumnus will attend President Donald Trump’s address Tuesday to a joint session of Congress.
Born in Mexico and brought to the United States by her parents while still a child, Yuriana Aguilar is now an instructor in the department of physiology and biophysics at Rush Medical College in Chicago. Her research focuses on the human heart.
Aguilar will attend Trump’s address as the guest of freshman Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
“Researchers like Yuriana are on the cutting edge of advancements that will make our nation healthier,” Harris said in a statement. “America is the world leader in biomedical research. We must protect that status by continuing to invest in biomedical research through laws, like the Affordable Care Act, and by fostering DREAMers like Yuriana.”
Aguilar is a beneficiary of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows individuals who immigrated to the United States as children, remain here illegally and have no path to citizenship to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
In 2016, according to Harris’ office, Aguilar became the first DACA program beneficiary to earn a doctorate, when she graduated from U.C. Merced with a degree from the Quantitative Systems Biology Program.
“For me, there are certainly fears,” Aguilar stated in a Facebook post. “I fear that I’ll be in the flea market one day they will be rounding people up for deportations. I fear that no one is going to care that I have a PhD or that I have lived in the United States for as long as I can remember.”
Other congressional Democrats, too, have invited immigrants, Muslim Americans and other guests meant as counterpoints to Trump’s policies.