DACA Recipients In Medical School Have One Request For The Current Administration

"If there’s no resolution passed it would make it impossible to move on."

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally announced last week that the current administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — an Obama-era program that has made it possible for nearly 800,000 undocumented children of immigrants to live, work, go to school, or serve in the American military without fear of deportation — it sent shockwaves through immigrant communities across the country and prompted dozens of protests.

Though all DACA recipients likely stand to be impacted in some way if Congress fails to take action and permanently defend them by passing a law, last week's decision was particularly frightening for those in medical school, many of whom have already spent several years studying and working in order to help those in underserved communities.

Manuel Bernal, a fourth-year medical student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, emigrated to the United States as a child and considers Tennessee his home. According to HuffPost, Bernal was in the middle of a shift at an emergency department when the decision to end DACA was confirmed.


"It's the worst timing, really, because I'm at the end of my med school career and ready to transition over to the next phase of my career," he tells the outlet. "If there's no resolution passed it would make it impossible to move on."

Back in 2014, Bernal was one of 32 DACA recipients admitted into the Stritch School of Medicine, which was the first medical school to explicitly invite and admit students with DACA status. This year, there are an estimated 100 DACA recipients enrolled in medical schools across the country.

With less than a week to go before he needs to start applying to residency programs (after which he will begin interviewing and hopefully be matched this spring), Bernal is unsure how to proceed. The work permit he was granted thanks to DACA is scheduled to expire in March 2019.

"How do I let programs know that they should interview me even though there's not a fix on the books yet?" he asked.

Much like those in the tech industry, medical professionals argued against the repeal of DACA and are now urging Congress to pass a law that would permanently safeguard DACA recipients. In a letter sent to congressional leaders hours after DACA was rescinded, American Medical Association Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara urged lawmakers to help DACA recipients. Per Madara's missive, those with DACA status are "more likely to work in high-need areas where communities face challenges in recruiting other physicians."

And keep in mind, these medical professionals are greatly needed.

"Without these physicians, the AMA is concerned that the quality of care provided in these communities will be negatively impacted and that patient access to care will suffer," Madara continued.

Lastly, it's crucial to note the discontinuation of DACA not only stands to impact those who have already started medical training, but those who wish to do so in the near future. Last week we told you about a worried DACA recipient named Karla Martinez who is currently a freshman in college studying to be an ER nurse. "I'm not asking you to feel sorry for me, but just to take action and help the rest of us to continue our path to education," she tweeted at the time.

Bernal and Martinez are just two DACA recipients who are striving to make this country (the only one they've ever known) a better place, and it's important we do everything in our power to protect them and the hundreds of thousands of others in the same position. As former President Barack Obama declared last week, "These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts."


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