ASU alum testifies before US Senate Judiciary Committee on DACA, her American dream


June 20, 2022

Last week, Arizona State University alumna Dalia Larios testified before the United States Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety about her personal experience as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipent.

Sen. Alex Padilla of California called the hearing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and more than 20 years that have passed since the first introduction of the DREAM Act. Screenshot of former ASU student Dalia Larios during her testimony before the United States Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety. Former Arizona State University student Dalia Larios testified before the United States Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety on June 14. Download Full Image

The testimonials were designed to reinforce the need for a permanent solution for young, undocumented immigrants and increase international STEM-focused talent needed to drive innovation and demand in the United States.

“We urgently need to expand DACA and codify permanent protections for dreamers into federal law," Padilla said. "In order to maintain a healthy and competitive workforce, we must vote, foster the talents of young Americans and do more to attract and retain the best and brightest minds from around the world, and that begins with us addressing immigration policy.”

The hearing, which featured testimony from Larios and two other experts, took place June 14 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Larios testified virtually about her personal story as an undocumented immigrant and the impact of DACA on her life. She first came to the United States at the age of 10 and embarked on her resilient journey to pursue a career in medicine. She also reflected on the daily reality of countless immigrants who experience fear and family separation.

“The thought of deportation is exceptionally painful to bear. Most days, I don’t allow myself to think about it; it would mean losing everything and everyone I know,” Larios said in her testimony. She received a degree in biological sciences from ASU in 2012.

Larios, who is currently a resident doctor treating cancer patients at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Harvard Radiation Oncology Program, commented on how she grew up seeing her mother, a housekeeper, and father, a construction worker, struggle — and, ultimately, how they motivated her to strive for success.

While Larios graduated summa cum laude from ASU, she too felt the need to work just as hard due to the high costs of her desired medical career and her legal status as an undocumented worker.

Then, when DACA was created in 2012, Larios was able to take a gap year to work and earn money to pay for the medical school application process. By 2019, she became the first DACA recipient to graduate Harvard Medical School with honors.

“Although I'm proud that the program continues to stand today,” she said, “I'm disappointed that even after a decade, our future is still uncertain, and our anxieties around deportation have not been abated.”

When asked by committee member Sen. John Cornyn of Texas whether providing stability for DACA recipients or providing employment-based green cards for people with advanced degrees should be a priority, Larios emphasized how important it is for all immigrants to have the same opportunities.

“I personally don't consider myself more deserving than anyone else,” she said. “I think that Congress should approach this in a comprehensive manner, thinking about the fact that lives are at stake here. This is a topic that extends beyond just a piece of paper, that it's somebody's livelihood that we're talking about.”

Larios pointed to a June 2020 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to make the case for the essential role that immigrants have played during the global pandemic in the health care field — a time that also projects a shortage of 124,000 physicians within the next 12 years. As a physician, she added, she worries about the impact that shortage will have on patients she and her colleagues care for.

“There’s nearly 30,000 DACA recipients in health care and about 200 medical students and residents who again have (been impacted by) DACA,” Larios said. “If you look at those nearly 200 medical students and residents, they will touch the lives of 1.7 to 5.1 million patients.”

Larios was asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota for her opinion on a viable, long-term pathway to awarding permanent status to DACA students.

“Something to emphasize about a lot of these issues is, at least for DACA (recipients) … we live two years at a time. We apply, we cross our fingers, hold our breath and hope that there's an acceptance on the other side, but living like this is not a life,” Larios said.

Watch the full testimony on the Senate Judiciary Committee website and read her written statement here.

Who cares for the caregiver?

New ASU-led study seeks to identify practices to help caregivers recharge


June 20, 2022

A few years after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Carlos Olivas reached his breaking point. He moved back home to Sacramento, California, to live with his dad and care for him full time on his own. 

“Things got really rough between my dad and me, and I kind of lost it,” Olivas said. An older man looks on as a young woman hugs an older woman. The ASU CARES study is seeking participants caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer's or related dementias. Image courtesy Canva Download Full Image

Olivas needed additional assistance, so he called the Alzheimer’s Association’s 1-800 number seeking information to help his dad. He got that and much more. He was ultimately able to refocus and see how much he needed to care for himself, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say that one phone call ended up being life-altering for both Olivas and his father. 

“The person I talked to said, 'Well, how are you doing?' And that’s when I opened up and found a listening ear that understood my position, and from there I ended up joining a support group,” Olivas said.

According to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 study from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, about one in five Americans is an unpaid family caregiver. In case you’re wondering, that adds up to an estimated 53 million people. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls these caregivers the backbone of long-term, in-home care, noting that while this role can be rewarding, it can also lead to negative health consequences. 

“Generally, and especially for those caregiving pretty much full time for a family member or friend with Alzheimer’s disease, the levels of emotional and physical stress and the strain on the relationship is very high. No matter how much they love the person they are caring for, it takes an extraordinary toll,” said Linda Larkey, a faculty member and a researcher in Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Larkey is the co-principal investigator, along with Dara James, a postdoctoral scholar, who earned her PhD in nursing and health care innovation, for the ASU CARES study. They are actively recruiting participants 18 and older who are caring for a family member or friend living with Alzheimer’s, or related dementias, for their ongoing research.

“We are examining the use of practices that potentially help caregivers recharge physically and emotionally in just a few minutes every day, without taking time away from their caregiving,” Larkey said. “Our study is one of a series that has been implemented by research faculty in Edson College as we build programs for dementia prevention, support and caregivers.”

Carlos Olivas looks at the camera. He's wearing a black shirt with the word caregiver on it and the definition below.

Carlos Olivas. Photo by Roberta Alvarado

As part of his search to find resources and support, Olivas came across an earlier study from the college. When asked why it appealed to him, he was candid and said there were a couple of reasons, the first being his own health. 

“I read a statistic from the Alzheimer’s Association that said 67% of caregivers caring for their loved ones pass away before their loved ones and that scared the s--- out of me,” Olivas said. “My health already wasn’t great, I was overweight, and that compounded with the stress and strain of caregiving, I felt I was going down that path and I needed to change.”

Additionally, Olivas said as a person of color and a male, being represented in studies like this was important to him so that science will “help other people just like me.” He sees research studies as a community-based resource and a way to pay it forward to future caregivers. 

If current estimates hold, there will soon be a sharp increase in the number of people stepping into roles to care for America’s aging population.

“This is a rapidly growing sector of our population, family members suddenly needing to give up most of what their life was about, to care for a loved one in this context. It creates a challenge to the well-being and quality of life and relationships for the whole family,” Larkey said. 

The practices Olivas picked up during his participation in a previous Edson College study have now become habits that have made a big difference in how he goes about his day. For example, he’s started prioritizing self-care and focusing on something other than caregiving for a bit. Another habit involves being more present to recognize the stresses and strains he is experiencing and knowing when to reach out to his care network for support.

“People need to understand that there is help and support out there, but you have to work at it. I’m still working on myself to improve my health because being healthy helps me be a better caregiver,” he said.

To learn more about ASU CARES, email the study team at edsonCARES@asu.edu.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

602-496-0983