Harold Fernandez, MD
Professor of Surgery
Deputy-Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Co-director, Stony Brook University Heart Institute
Stony Brook, NY 11790

Commission on Population and Development
Forty-sixth session
22-26 April 2013

I would like to thank the Commission on Population and Development for this invitation to share my story with all your members here at the United Nations.   In particular, I want to acknowledge Mr. Barney Cohen for making all the arrangements, and my close friend Paolo Mignatti for recommending my name to the Commission.   When I first learned that the commission had an interest in hearing my story, I realized that I could not shun away from this opportunity.  As you will see, I feel passionate about this particular issue.  When I was a freshman student at Princeton University, I came very close to having to abandon my dream of becoming a physician because I did not have documents.  I was treated by the President of Princeton, Dr. Bill Bowen, as well as many other Americans with compassion and given an opportunity to stay in America and make my dream of helping others a reality. In fact, this is why I spent several years and many hours writing my book, Undocumented, which is a story about the fears, the dreams, and the struggles of an undocumented family in America.
I feel that often as we ardently debate the topic of immigration reform, we lose sight of the most important aspect, which I feel is the human side of the immigration debate.  As we all make our arguments in favor or against change,  listen to all the numbers and all the data, and as we evaluate all the tables, and all the graphs, I would like to remind everyone here that behind all those numbers, there are people, families, children, and dreams.  I feel strongly that this is what I can best illustrate.   After all, my experience in America is not any different than the story of over 15 million immigrants currently living in America without documents.
Behind our own specific circumstances, we share many similarities, including our culture, our dreams, our struggles, etc.  However, the most powerful factor that we all share is our incredible love and devotion to America.   I was fortunate that when I had to meet with my immigration judge in 1986, I had letters of support from President Ronal Reagan, Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean, and New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley.   Although I was here without documents, I had shown that I wanted to be a part of the American dream, and therefore I was treated with compassion, and I was given a second chance.  This is what America is all about.  In addition to being the "land of the brave," it is the land of humanity, of compassion, and of second opportunities for those who want to be here, work hard, and become American citizens.  This is the reason why I strongly recommend practical and compassionate immigration reform so that other families, children, and young adults can live in America with dignity, and so that they may also dream and contribute to the welfare of our beautiful country.


Presentation of panel discussion on 4/22/2013