After graduating with his doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore on May 16, Yves Gomes, a parishioner of St. Camillus in Silver Spring, is hoping to use his knowledge to help the community he grew up in.

Gomes is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program created by President Barack Obama, allowing undocumented youth who met certain qualifications to apply to remain in the country for two years, subject to renewal. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that the DACA program was being rescinded, leaving many young adults with an uncertain future.

Just a few weeks after that announcement, Gomes told the Catholic Standard his deferred action was set to expire in 2019, soon after he would graduate from pharmacy school. He was pursuing the degree while uncertain what his future would hold, which he said was “nerve-wracking.”

Now, nearly two years later, Yves and other undocumented young people still face uncertainty. Two U.S. appeal courts have ruled that President Donald Trump cannot end the program that shielded the young immigrants from deportation, allowing them to remain in the country for now, but Congress has failed to pass legislation with a more permanent solution. President Trump’s newly-proposed immigration plan does not include any long-term fixes for these DACA recipients.

Gomes, who came to the United States from India with his parents when he was just 14 months old, said graduating in this context “is not an ideal circumstance” and “causes some anxiety for me and so many others.” But he said on his graduation day, he “felt overwhelmed” and “felt a great deal of gratitude.”

“I felt also a responsibility to continue making sure this would pave the way for others,” he said.

Gomes noted that less than one percent of people who are undocumented have the opportunity to receive a professional degree.

“I was able to do that because I had the support of my entire community; my family,” he said. “…I was able to do that because my family wasn’t denied the opportunity for upward socioeconomic mobility.”

Gomes noted that his parents were able to work in the United States legally for several years, and he was able to have a work permit, which is an opportunity denied to many people who are undocumented. Gomes’s family appealed for 12 years to get asylum, and during that time they were granted work permits. Gomes’s father worked as a banquet waiter at the Washington Hilton and Crown Plaza, and his mother was a computer science professor at Northern Virginia Community College.

Ultimately, the family was denied asylum in 2006, and they became undocumented. A few years later, Gomes’ parents were deported.

Now, Gomes wants to do what he can to support others who may have trouble accessing things like healthcare or education. He will be working at Safeway as a floater pharmacist, working in a variety of stores, mostly in Montgomery County. He said his first priority is to “become really good at what I do.”

“Pharmacists are many times the most accessible healthcare professional for people who do not have access to health care, whether it be due to poverty or legal exclusion,” said Gomes in a 2017 Catholic Standard interview, noting that people who are undocumented do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act. “With health care being such a maze, I want to make it more accessible for all of my patients.”

In addition to his day job, Gomes wants to “continue the conversation of what it means to improve access to healthcare” and plans to volunteer his time by providing access to things like medical screening and diabetes education, and by providing vaccinations at clinics.

“A lot of people who are undocumented don’t have access to health care,” he said, adding, “Everybody deserves the right to get help.”

Since he will now be making significantly more money than he has in the past, he said he has to ask himself, “How much of that do I really need for myself?” and how much can he use for other purposes, like helping other people.

“We are told that success comes with acquiring more wealth and having a lot of money,” he said. “Part of that is going to be really nice, but I want to make sure I can support my friends, both financially and emotionally, to be able to help with their struggle accessing education or whatever else they want to do.”

He hopes to start doing that on an interpersonal level, and then will see how he can help on a larger scale.

Gomes credits his instincts to be generous with his time and resources to the “extremely beautiful example” that his great-aunt and great-uncle have given him, by allowing him to live with them in their house for 10 years, without ever asking for anything in return.

“My family raised me to have a lot of faith. They continue to pray a lot; pray that people will come to their senses and our country will do the right thing,” he said, adding that he has been inspired by “how they give so freely and generously.”

“I am grateful to have that as a model for how to treat others,” he said. “They are so rooted in their faith…I got to see what it is to put faith into action.”

Yves Gomes, at left, with his great-uncle, Henry Gomes, at right. (Photo courtesy of Yves Gomes)