DREAMers of DACA Status Welcome

Medical education in the Jesuit tradition of care of the person and promotion of social justice

The Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is pleased to invite applications from qualified persons with DACA immigration status or who are DACA-eligible. These students join U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents as eligible for admission to Loyola Stritch School of Medicine.  Application for admission may be made concurrent with pursuit of DACA status; matriculation requires completion of the process and conferral of deferred action from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

As a Jesuit and Catholic educational institution, we strive to be a welcoming and supportive environment that welcomes qualified DREAMers to join their peers and achieve their full potential in serving others as physicians. Moreover, it is simply in the interest of the medical profession and the people we serve to utilize the talents of qualified students of this immigration status. We call upon our peers in the medical education community to also extend opportunities to these students and to advocate for reforms of the United States immigration system that would remove the remaining barriers and uncertainties confronting this category of students.

  1. What is DACA Status?
    On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  This program allows some young persons who are classified as undocumented immigrants to receive a two-year, renewable authorization to remain and work within the United States. These young persons are commonly called “DREAMers” after the proposed federal legislation, the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act). DREAMers were brought to the United States as children and have been raised and been educated in this country. They are Americans in every way except lack citizenship status. “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.” (1)
     
    In order to obtain DACA-status, DREAMers must meet certain criteria including that they were brought to the United States before the age of sixteen but are not older than thirty-one years of age, have achieved particular levels of education or military service, and not have been convicted of a felony or have a problematic record of misdemeanors  (For a full list of criteria, click here) 
     
    Students who are granted DACA status are issued an Employment Authorization Document (also known as a work permit) and can apply for a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration.
     
  2. Why Has Loyola Stritch School of Medicine Expanded Eligibility to this Category of Students?
    The Loyola Stritch School of Medicine welcomes DREAMers who are DACA-eligible for three main reasons:
    1. Our Jesuit & Catholic Values - As a Catholic university that is sponsored by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), we firmly believe in the dignity of each person and in the promotion of social justice. The dignity or worth of persons calls us to steward the talents of qualified applicants rather than reject their contributions for arbitrary and arcane reasons. Social justice requires that we foster the conditions for full participation in the community by all members of our community. These young people who meet the criteria for DACA status are typically woven into the fabric of our communities and have a basic right to contribute to the fullest extent of their abilities. Our approach echoes a long tradition articulated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) of advocacy for immigrant members of our communities. (2) (3) (4)
       
    2. The Interests of the Medical Profession and Medical Education – A diverse medical workforce is very important to the health of our communities for reasons that are well-known.  Physicians who share ethnic, cultural or racial backgrounds with underserved patients are more likely to choose to serve those underserved populations, produce improved outcomes, and can become role models within the community. In addition, it is desirable that all physicians develop a level of cultural sensitivity and competence. Training side-by-side in a diverse student body can foster understanding of persons and cultures different from one’s own. Thus, increasing diversity benefits all students.

      DREAMers represent a potential source of qualified and diverse talent that will be an asset to the medical education environment, the medical profession, and patients. These young people are often bi-cultural, bi-lingual, and possess insight into the immigrant experience. In a nation that has a large immigrant population, these young people can help to foster the ability of the physician workforce to treat the array of patients they will encounter in their practices.
       
    3. DACA status removes a long-standing barrier to securing a residency slot – Medical school graduates who have DACA status will be eligible to gain a state license to practice medicine and thereby enter a residency training program. Prior to the creation of the DACA program, any DREAMer who graduated medical school would be unable to secure a work authorization and a social security number. Thus, he or she would be unable to gain a license to practice medicine and enter residency training. Medical schools understandably had been reluctant to accept and educate students who would not be able to treat patients. Such a situation would consume significant resources of the educational institution without meeting its goal, namely to produce physicians to serve the community’s patient populations. As this barrier is no longer an insurmountable obstacle, it is incumbent upon medical schools to evaluate DREAMers for admission based on their qualifications and potential, not their immigration status.
       
  3. Barriers that confront DREAMers and Loyola Stritch School of Medicine’s response

    The immediate obstacle that DREAMers face after acceptance to medical school is financing their medical education. Students with DACA status remain ineligible for most federal benefits including federal loans. Such loans comprise an important part of a typical medical student’s financial aid package. To address the iniquity, in addition to school-based aid, highly-qualified DREAMer applicants are eligible for a targeted loan for DACA-status students available from the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA), the infrastructure bank of the State of Illinois. This loan requires that the recipient provide a year of service in a designated underserved area of the State of Illinois for each year he or she receives the loan.  The loan is interest-free with completion of the service obligation. If the recipient fails to complete their service requirement, a high-interest rate attaches to the loan retroactive to the date of issuance. This loan program is designed to enhance the physician infrastructure of the state and provide much-needed services to Illinois residents in serious need. Because the IFA does not rely on taxpayer funding, no tax dollars support this loan program.

    The longer term concern for students with DACA status is the stability of the deferred action program.  It is a status created by the executive branch of government and thereby subject to change in a new Presidential administration. As a two-year renewable status, it cannot provide the recipient with the long-term security that comes with a path to citizenship.  However, we believe to use this concern to further delay the opportunities for medical education to DREAMers is to perpetuate existing injustices. The uncertain future of the DACA program is a concern that should motivate the medical profession and medical education community to advocate for a path to citizenship for DREAMers.  This path would be in the interest of medicine and the patients we serve.
     
    If you have been granted DACA status or believe that you are eligible for DACA status and desire more information regarding applying to the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, contact:

    Viviana Martinez, M.Ed
    Director of Admissions

    Email: ssom-dream@luc.edu
    Loyola Stritch School of Medicine
    2160 S. First Avenue
    Maywood, IL 60153
    TEL (708) 216-3229


References

  1. President Barack Obama, Transcript of Obama’s Speech on Immigration Policy. NY Times, June 15, 2012
     
  2. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity, November 15, 2000
     
  3. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, January 22, 2003
     
  4. Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, Statement in Support of Comprehensive Compassionate Immigration Reform, April 11, 2013
     
  5. Statement from Mayor Emanuel on Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine's Decision to Admit Undocumented Students
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