By Kimrey Van Perre
My friends have been called “courageous” for sharing their plight as undocumented students with the US Congress. They have been called “DREAMers” due to the Dream Act that has been repeatedly introduced in Congress but never passed. I call them “selfless” and “unrelenting” in their commitment to the medically underserved despite their uncertain legal status.
I am a 3rd year medical student at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM). I am not a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) student. I was born a US citizen. But many of my friends at SSOM are DACA students. Their families, like mine generations ago, immigrated to this country. They wanted their children to have opportunities and to grow up in a safe and stable country…
I was attracted to my friends because of our mutual dedication to medically underserved communities. Like all medical students, DACA students fulfilled the same rigorous requirements. We completed demanding pre-medical coursework and tough exams and spent a year applying to medical schools across the country. Only after years of hard work and dedication did we start the intensive journey to become a physician.
Unlike my journey, DACA students accomplished all of this while living in the shadows. They grew up in this country afraid of their undocumented status being uncovered and afraid of being deported to a country they barely remember. Somehow, they managed to fund a college education without being able to get a federal student loan. And yet, they dared to dream. They dreamed of being a physician and helping others. In spite of their undocumented status and limited resources, they pursued that dream.
President Obama created DACA, providing these undocumented students with a deferral of action on their immigration status and a work permit. This is enough to provide them a path to become a physician. Pursuing this path did not come without serious risk. DACA required them to come from the shadows, declaring their undocumented status and consequently their families’. With courage and their families’ support, they emerged from the shadows in pursuit of a greater dream. They are becoming physicians to provide healthcare to ALL Americans.
They dare to dream and dare to pursue that dream. In the face of uncertainty and fear they have the courage, sacrifice, and tenacity to pursue their dreams of making this country great. Our country needs their hard work and service. We cannot afford to have their talents languish in the shadows.
As an executive action, DACA can be overturned with a stroke of a pen. Our healthcare system cannot afford to lose these future physicians. To DACA students, speak up, do not let us forget you and your dreams. To Americans everywhere, speak out, tell your government representatives they must support DACA. To our government, do not turn away those who embody the American Dream; utilize our DACA students’ amazing talents to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!
Kimrey Van Perre is a third-year medical student at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. She holds an MPH in Global Health from Boston University.