DACA fears soar flores pkg
DREAMers fearful of immigration crackdown
02:44 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Jennifer Chang is a psuedonym. CNN is withholding the student’s real name at her request because she is concerned about the potential legal repercussions of sharing her story.

Story highlights

About 70 DACA-status students are studying now at medical schools in the United States

They could help fill a US physician shortfall but fear deportation under Trump policies

CNN  — 

Jennifer Chang celebrated when she got her acceptance letter from Yale School of Medicine. She thought her dream of becoming a doctor was finally within her grasp. But now, the 26-year-old med student isn’t so sure.

Chang has the grades to make it. She’s committed to serving her patients. But she is also undocumented.

“I was brought to the United States from China by my parents when I was 5 years old,” she told CNN. “We entered legally and even submitted an application for permanent residency. But it took over 10 years for the final rejection to happen, and by then I considered the United States to be my home.”

Like legions of other children who arrived or stayed in this country illegally with their parents, Chang has gotten a temporary reprieve from deportation under a program called DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama-era initiative also grants work permits to participants, who can renew their status every two years.

DACA set the stage for Chang to pursue her goal of practicing medicine. She’s now one of about 70 DACA-status students studying at med schools in the US, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

03 undocumented doctors medical students trump dreamers

But Chang, like other students who spoke with CNN, worries that President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration could threaten the program – and their career aspirations.

“If DACA gets eliminated and not replaced by anything, I will have to put my dream on hold,” said Gloria Rinconi, a DACA recipient and biology major at Richland College in Dallas who decided to pursue medicine as she watched her mother, who also is undocumented, battle breast cancer.

Parsing Trump’s promises

Trump has vowed to preserve protections for DACA recipients, who often are called DREAMers, a reference to the related DREAM Act. If approved by Congress, it would give DACA participants permanent legal status.

But the President also has decried purported abuses of the DACA program, alleging that gang members and drug dealers are among its ranks, even though serious criminal offenders are barred. And weeks into his term, Trump expanded the power of immigration officers to deport people and made clear that no one in the country illegally is safe from removal.

For undocumented students who want to become doctors, DACA status is key, said Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer who is chairman of the International Medical Graduate Taskforce.

“The employment cards DACA recipients get don’t limit them as far as the type of work they can do,” he said. “So if someone completes medical school and is accepted into a residency program, they can pursue their graduate medical training. And they can potentially receive a medical license and practice medicine.”

So far, that territory remains uncharted. Given that DACA is only five years old, med students with that status are only now in their first year of residency, said Matthew Shick, director of government relations and regulatory affairs for the medical colleges association.

“Licensure has not yet been in any way challenged legally,” he said, adding that in other professions, requiring citizenship for a license has been ruled unconstitutional.

Facing a physician shortage

“Right now, the US has a physician shortage, and it will be foolish if we have people capable of addressing this crisis and we choose to drive them away,” Siskind said. A study released this week predicts