Teen Saved by St. Jude Fighting to Stay in U.S.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital helped him beat cancer, but his biggest battle is to stay in the country that saved his life. The 18 year old Chilean, Sergio Araya, is hoping President Obama's new policy on immigration will give him a work permit. The application process opened this week.
Doctors in Chile told Sergio Araya's family he only had months to live.
"I have cancer in the eye right here (points to his left eye) and the tumor started growing and eventually it made its way up,” the 18 year old told abc24 news. “In Chile they decided to remove the tumor which they had to remove my eye."
His parents did not accept the fact that his son could die if he stayed in Chile. So people in his community helped him raise the money to come to the United States when he was about three years old. His parents overstayed their visas because of Araya’s cancer and chemotherapy. The treatment took a toll on his body. Araya has skin problems, lost his teeth, and has a prosthetic eye. St. Jude helped Araya fight and eventually beat the cancer, but it doesn’t end there.
"I want to go to college but I can’t because I can’t get a scholarship because you need a social security number. I want to get a job to help my parents but again I can't," said Araya.
Under President Obama's new immigration policy, called "Deferred Action," Araya may be able to stay in this country.
"Deferred action means we defer those people who are kids who came in when they were infants through no fault of their own, they've come in to the United States and they've been good citizens," said Memphis immigration lawyer Charles Blatteis.
The policy applies to those who came to the U.S under the age 15, are not older than 30, have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years, and have no criminal record. The president says this is not amnesty or a path to citizenship. Immigration lawyers say there are huge backlogs of deportations but this policy will help keep people who contribute.
“It's a tremendous waste I think for this country to not allow them to have the ability to work, pursue careers, and really contribute to the country,” said another immigration attorney, Gregory Siskind.
Even though it will still be a long journey to become a citizen, Araya doesn't mind the wait and will do whatever it takes to stay here.
“I doubt there are any amount of words I could say to express how grateful I would be if everything does go according to plan,” Araya told abc24 news.
Araya will know in 90 days if he's approved for a work permit. His ultimate goal is to go to college and become a nutritionist. He says he wants to work for St. Jude.