Nursing and immigrant student Rosa Ruvalcaba Serna convinced a GOP-dominated state to change its laws so DREAMers could become licensed nurses.
“I just remember, like, just tears coming down my face and thinking, like, I’ve gotten to this point,” she said. “I’ve gotten here. It just kind of feels like you’re getting hit right in the stomach.”
Despite a nursing shortage, most states don’t let DACA recipients take the NCLEX exam, which nurses must pass to get a license. So Ruvalcaba Serna got the law changed in Arkansas.
“Being undocumented is not something that’s on my mind 24/7,” she said. “It was one of those things that I didn’t fully grasp.”
Ruvalcaba Serna came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was six years old and has lived with her mom and brothers in Arkansas since 2005. She received protections under DACA in 2012, which allowed her to attend college and work legally in the U.S. For years, she worked two or three jobs, while studying nursing at the University of Arkansas. Then, in 2017, the state nursing board announced the DACA recipients were no longer eligible to take the NCLEX exam.
She then joined the Arkansas Nursing Students’ Association’s board of directors and caught the eye of state Representative Megan Godfrey with her activism.
“She wanted to present a bill that would amend this issue,” Ruvalcaba Serna said.
The bill passed Arkansas’ GOP-controlled state legislature in early 2018 and Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed it into law in 2019.