NC brothers fighting on COVID-19 front lines as ICU nurses face potential deportation

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Two North Carolina brothers who are fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are also facing potential deportation.

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.

RELATED: Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in NC

“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 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 Vargas 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 children and granted special immigration status.

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

“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 Vargas

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.

That leaves the brothers 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.

“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 Vargas 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.”

Nevertheless, Jonathan Vargas said he is 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 Vargas’ circumstances are different from those of his brother now that he’s married. He is in the process of trying to gain citizenship through marital status.

His wife, Leah, also works in the same ICU unit.

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