Illegal Farm Worker Achieves American Dream by Becoming Brain Surgeon

Today we bring an article posted on NPR from their series titled “In Limbo”. The series of articles focuses on those who are between being legal and being illegal. This article is about Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa. Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosagrew up in the small village of Palaco, Mexico. As a bright young man, he wanted to become a teacher. But he had to overcome many obstacles first, including hunger. “I am not talking about hungry for success; I was literally hungry for food. My stomach was empty,” he says.

Dr. Quiñones- Hinojosa was determined to put food on the table for his family, so he did the only thing he could possibly think of: he literally jumped over a fence between his native Mexico and the United States and became a farm worker in southern California. He started by picking tomatoes, corn and broccoli. Later, he operated dangerous machinery in the fields. But things changed for him after a conversation with his cousin. “The critical portion that got me out of the fields was my own cousin telling me that I was going to spend the rest of my life working as a migrant farm worker,” Dr. Quiñones- Hinojosa says.

He could not imagine that life. He left the fields and headed north. To pay for community college, he shoveled sulfur and scraped fish lard from tankers — an excruciating job that almost cost him his life. His journey then took him to University of California, Berkeley, and later Harvard Medical School. After 10 years, since first jumping over that fence into America, he became a U.S. citizen. Now, Dr. Alfredo Quiñones- Hinojosa is a respected brain surgeon who directs the Brain Tumor Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital. He says more needs to be done to help those who can follow in his footsteps. “Among people who come to the United States today — whether they come from privileged backgrounds or humble backgrounds — is our next Einstein, is our next Nobel laureate, but we just have failed to identify,” he says.

The American dream has always been the chance at an opportunity for a better life. Regardless of the hardships he faced, Dr. Quiñones- Hinojosa worked hard at making his situation work so that he could achieve his dream. While the topic of immigration reform remains fresh in the mind of Americans with election season coming up, the story of those who have been stuck in between should also remind us that there is more to benefit by making changes to our system that bring people like Dr. Quiñones- Hinojosa here. For the rest of the week, NPR will continue to publish stories similar to this one to help put a new face on the immigration reform issue we still face.