Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lauding Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine for becoming the first medical school in the nation to accept applications from undocumented immigrants.
Stritch decided to accept undocumented students after President Barack Obama signed an order to allow young adults brought to the United States as children to temporarily live and work here legally, Crain’s Chicago Business first reported.
Stritch says on its website that the decision also is fitting with Loyola’s Jesuit value of social justice.
“Loyola University’s decision to become the first medical school in the country to allow undocumented students to apply and attend is one more way Chicago is becoming the most immigrant friendly city in the country. As the University attracts more of the best and brightest to Chicago, they will help shape our city, as immigrants have done in every generation,” Emanuel said in a statement.” With our support for the DREAM act and efforts to promote immigrant businesses and citizenship, we are creating more opportunities for immigrants to pursue their dreams. By accepting undocumented students, Loyola will provide families and students across the country a better chance to achieve the American dream in Chicago, the most American of American Cities. Loyola’s decision is true to our values as a city and will help create value for our city for generations to come.”
Here is an announcement from Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine:
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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 federally-guaranteed student loans. Such loans often comprise an important part of a medical student’s financial aid package. Of course all students at a private university such as Loyola are eligible for aid from the university including scholarships.The Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is presently pursuing a number of financial aid options for students who have received deferred action. We remain hopeful that highly qualified applicants will achieve a financing package comparable to students who are U.S. citizens. The package can potentially combine school-based aid and alternative loans that are similar to federally-guaranteed loans in their terms. We hope to be able to provide more specific information in the coming months.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.