“I start thinking about suicide,” Jonathan Garcia says. “All the suffering, it was too much for me. I can’t handle it anymore.”
The 26-year-old, who now lives just north of the Bronx in Yonkers, is seriously ill. One of his kidneys has failed, and the other functions at just 12 percent. He receives dialysis treatments to stay alive.
His younger sister Dulce Garcia wants to donate one of her kidneys to him.
“It’s a way of me showing him that I want him to actually live,” she says.
But hospitals won’t consider performing the transplant because of Jonathan's legal status.
Jonathan and his sister walked with their mother across the border into the U.S. from Mexico 15 years ago, making them undocumented immigrants.
The siblings were eligible for DACA, Differed Action For Childhood Arrivals, the program created by President Barack Obama to give renewable legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday.
Dulce's DACA application was approved.
“I was happy I got it so that means I could go to work and school at the same time," Dulce says. She attends the Borough of Manhattan Community College and works at a McDonald's in Midtown.
But her brother was denied DACA status, because of a botched application. It turns out, the man he hired to prepare it, falsely claimed he was a lawyer.
“He was scammed. He was a victim of fraud,” says immigration attorney Elizabeth Cordoba.
Cordoba, who now represents Jonathan, says because the Trump Administration ultimately froze the DACA program, there’s no way for him to obtain legal status - or the transplant.
“If DACA were to be open again, he pretty much could just apply. He would be eligible for health care. Once he applies for health care, he would be able to get the transplant he needs,” Cordoba says.
Northwell Health, North Shore University Hospital continues to treat Jonathan and bill him. Jonathan can’t afford good health insurance, and can only qualify for medicaid with DACA status.
“First, I was in shock because I thought this country helps people,” Jonathan says. “Then, I realized that a simple paper can do a lot of things.”
Doctors say Jonathan would be a good candidate for a transplant, if not for his immigration status.
The concern, a Northwell spokesman tells NY1, is that if the hospital performed the transplant, Jonathan would be at grave risk if he was deported and had little access to the follow-up health care and expensive anti-viral drugs kidney transplant patients need.
It's a dilemma that's left Jonathan desperate and in despair.
“What will happen if I die? What will happen to my family?” he says. “I’m praying to God for a miracle.”