Jesus Pineda Ramierz © Mark Tuschman
Jesus Pineda Ramierz
Country of Origin: Mexico
Profession: Immigrant Rights and Health Activist
Since coming here I’ve dealt with racism, but ever since the current administration came into office people have felt bolder and more willing to try to be in my face about it. I’ve had people throw rocks at me, I’ve had people break my car window and write racist things in my car. I’ve had people send me death threats.
I dated a girl whose parents would make racist comments. They’d say I only got into specific schools because they needed more diversity. Her stepfather wanted to be a cop and said a Latino who wanted the same job got it instead because of Affirmative Action. He was really upset at me even though I had nothing to do with it. He was hostile and never trusted me. I discovered that he actually hid a tracking device underneath my car. There were huge cultural differences. I remember once my girlfriend didn’t understand why I was having a panic attack when a cop was driving behind me. I had to explain to her that cops had harassed me in the past. Things didn’t end very well.
This year I have definitely been trying to figure out my identity and where I belong. I was dealing with feeling neglected and invisible to a lot of people. I made people uncomfortable by talking about these things. You just feel so alone and hopeless sometimes. It’s exhausting trying to explain things to people.
Faith allowed me to see the world in a different way. It got me through Berkeley and was how I found a community of people to support me. I felt like I was able to seek something beyond myself and focus on who I wanted to become instead of what the world was telling me to be. I began to thrive because I was more confident in myself. Contributing to my community and really loving people was how I wanted to be known, instead of for having a fancy degree.
I was fighting for my church and my community to talk about these things. I was working at a Christian camp and people said awful stuff to me. I reached out to my pastors and asked them to talk about how this is affecting people in our community. My pastor told me, “Those issues do not pertain to our church because we’re mainly a white congregation. We are a church that focuses on theology, music, art, coffee, and the board.” My identity as a Christian and an immigrant go hand in hand. Luckily, I found a really good community focused on social justice and finding intersections with the gospel.
I want to do an MD and master’s in public health. My goal is to open different women-run clinics that cater to low-income communities. All woman nurses and doctors will both empower women in the STEM field, and also create a community where single mothers can bring their kids and be seen in the same day. I remember my mom struggling when we went to the doctor because I could get seen, but she wasn’t seen and I just don’t want any other kid to experience that. As someone who is very intuitive, space is really important. So I want to create these open spaces with a lot of natural lighting and plants – something that just doesn’t feel like a hospital or a clinic.
Meanwhile, my DACA expires very soon. Every day I just stare at it and wonder: what if it doesn’t get renewed, or Trump, Congress or some judge makes another decision? My whole future would change. It’s been a year of feeling I’m in limbo, like I’m a bargaining chip; a year of unknowns and uncertainty.
This country is built on immigrants and I am very much an American, just without papers. I call this nation home. I don’t know anything else. I want to contribute: I love this country. There’s this stigma that immigrants are lazy or just taking government benefits. That’s not true. We’re hardworking, we’re doctors and nurses and students. I encourage you to listen to our stories and understand that we are just as American as you are, and what news outlets say doesn’t define us. People coming here are trying to escape violence or better their lives. That is why my parents decided to come here. They wanted a better future for me and my siblings.
To learn more about the work of Mark Tuschman please visit his page at Mark Tuschman.
To read our interview with Mark on the Immigrants are US project please click on the title.