On June 15, 2012, the Obama administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides deportation relief for a period of two years to qualified undocumented youth who came to the United States as children. While deferred action does not confer lawful status in the United States, it is a renewable program that can provide employment authorization to DACA recipients. Since its announcement, more than half a million youth have applied to deferred action becoming a successful first step into a more permanent immigration reform.
Locally, several states have passed legislation to either support or resist the DACA program. For example, many states have granted DACA recipients eligibility to a driver’s license while others have granted in-state tuition for those attending state colleges. Considering the opportunities that are being granted, we should expect an increasing number of talented undocumented individuals graduating from college and seeking advanced degrees in the sciences. These motivated individuals will join the ranks of future scientists and physicians bringing their diverse background into their fields. Additionally, their experiences as an underprivileged group will produce resilient doctors driven to achieve their career goals despite social, financial and legal obstacles.
Many schools have recognized the contributions that undocumented students will make to the sciences and have created programs to support them. In 2013, The Stritch School of Medicine of Loyola University became the first medical school to accept application from undocumented students holding DACA status. In addition, various summer research programs throughout the country have extended eligibility to undocumented students.
While it seems that opportunities are expanding, the pursuit of higher education is still unattainable to some DACA grantees. Opposition from a few states prevent DACA students from receiving in state tuition while other states ban DACA students from enrolling to post-secondary schools. Despite this opposition, the DACA announcement has filled undocumented youth with hope for a better future. They will continue to come out of the shadows and courageously proclaim their undocumented status. They will unite and rally for the chance to obtain their American Dream-the opportunity to pursue higher education and to become productive members of society.
Through their hard work and resourcefulness, I believe that undocumented youths will ultimately receive their federal DREAM ACT which will provide them with a chance at becoming permanent residents. In the meantime and if state legislation permits, I advocate for medical and graduate schools throughout the country to follow the example of the Loyola University and openly welcome DACA students for enrollment. We should support these DREAMers and encourage them to become our peers: our future scientists, physicians, and coworkers who will enrich our diversity at Mayo Clinic.