Dr. Fernanda Arnaldez didn’t think she’d permanently stay in the United States when she first came to the country to further her work as a pediatric cancer researcher.
That plan, however, eventually changed and, after a long and sometimes challenging journey, Arnaldez and her husband became U.S. citizens earlier this year.
“It was a moment full of emotions,” Arnaldez said about becoming a citizen. “We have made the U.S. our home, and our two daughters were born here. We are also thrilled that citizenship gives us the place to fully participate in the democratic process. We feel empowered to contribute to our community from a different perspective.”
She added: “The number one lesson for us is that while good planning is important, life does not necessarily follow the playbook. We are also thrilled to discover the number of friends we have made over all these years.”
Arnaldez, who was born in Argentina, now works to develop innovative medicines that optimize the work of the immune system to treat cancer in patients of all ages.
“I decided to be a pediatrician after realizing the deep relationship that families establish with the doctors caring for their youngest,” Arnaldez said. “Further along in my career, I was privileged to witness the incredible resilience that families affected by pediatric cancer possess. I was determined to contribute to improve outcomes.
“I had the fortune of training in wonderful institutions where data-based science and an inquisitive mind are encouraged and fostered, with a strong support for the model of a ‘physician-scientist.’ There was no other career path that I could possibly take after that. I am so glad I did.”
Arnaldez said she received tremendous support from her friends and coworkers while going through the process to become a citizen.
“The bureaucracy related to the immigration procedures was dissuading, and, at times, frankly discouraging,” Arnaldez said. “The journey was long, expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining. I feel grateful for the support received from peers and colleagues.”
Arnaldez said she had a “wonderful and positive” experience during her time working with Garfinkel Immigration senior associate attorney Catherine Magennis.
“She made me feel at ease,” Arnaldez said about Magennis. “She walked us through the process with professionalism and kindness, in a very personable manner. She was never rushed or dismissive. We always felt our case was important to her.”
Arnaldez said she often gives others looking to become American citizens a few key pieces of advice.
“First, go through an introspective exercise and make sure you are confident about the path you intend to take,” Arnaldez said. “Once decided, I believe it is key to count with the support of a professional who can give you an unbiased perspective about the potential outcomes. This process can be so stressful and difficult that I believe it is good to remind oneself of all the valuable skills and knowledge that we can use to contribute to the global society and the common good, regardless of whether the immigration case is approved or not.”