Longmont DACA Recipient in Waiting for Surgery Related to Spina Bifida
Around this time last year when Venancio “Veni” Noya was in the hospital for an infection related to his spina bifida, members of the Longmont branch of YMCA of Boulder Valley were eager to know when the employee would return.
Noya, who emigrated with his family from Mexico when he was 5 years old but considers Longmont home, was hired after graduating from Skyline High School in 2010. He has become a beloved figure at the organization in the after-school programs, child care division, and the health and fitness department.
“There’s just so many people that love him,” said his boss, Jessica Collins. “I can’t imagine him never being here.”
And to think of what could happen to him if he was deported or if his father is deported and he follows — it’s unfathomable, she said.
Noya said he is shielded for at least another two years from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Donald Trump decided will expire in March 2018.
“I’m just frustrated,” Noya said. “After this happened, it’s like, what’s the next step or what can we do to fight this? For me, I’m just shocked that (Trump) took it.”
The 25-year-old lives in a wheelchair with the serious birth defect called spina bifida, which affects his feeling below his knees. He is in need of a skin graft surgery — one he’s been through three times already — to remove a sore from his buttocks causing him “a bit of pain.”
If the sore comes back, he said, doctors have recommended his left leg be amputated.
But his status as a non-citizen under DACA makes him ineligible for Medicaid, he said, meaning the skin graft surgery alone could cost up to $40,000 out of pocket. The date of the surgery depends on when he has money.
“To have Medicaid, you have to be a lawful resident or a citizen,” said Ian McKinley, a Longmont immigration attorney. He said DACA recipients are “biting their nails” waiting on another program that could help immigrants.
To support Noya, Collins, who is the executive director of the Longmont branch, said the YMCA is looking for opportunities to raise money for the dearly loved member of their team while Noya also searches for grant options.
“To have to shoulder so many burdens in life, he rises above them daily and I just love that he’s a part of who we are and what we do,” Collins said.
Noya said he also volunteers his time to Northern Colorado Dreamers United , which helps DACA recipients, visits state capitols and hosts several fundraisers.
Among the immigrants the group is helping is Noya’s father, who has a federal court hearing in Denver in March to find out if he’ll be deported.
“If he goes, then we all have to go,” Noya said. “I live here and this is practically my home now. I’ve been here since I was 5. I graduated from (Skyline) high school. I got a job. I have family here too.”
Collins said knowing Noya has put a face on the struggles of immigration and specifically somebody with a disability. She said he has told her that he wouldn’t have the same opportunities in Mexico as he has had in the U.S.
“I’ve seen him here in my office with tears in his eyes concerned about his family and where all of these changes are going to lead him,” she said.
“As soon as he’s able to let that out and speak to those fears, he also realizes there’s such a community of people rallying around him and for him.”
Amelia Arvesen: 303-684-5212, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/ameliaarvesen