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Medical Students in Limbo as Young Immigrant Program Ends

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Zarna Patel poses for a portrait at the Loyola University Medical
Zarna Patel poses for a portrait at the Loyola University Medical School in Maywood, Ill, Patel, a third year student

Chicago, October 21: Medical students such as Alejandra Duran  Arreola are trying to shape the debate, and they have the backing of influential medical groups, including the American Medical Association.

Arreola dreams of becoming an OB-GYN in her home state of Georgia, where there’s a shortage of doctors and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the U.S.

But the 26-year-old Mexican immigrant’s goal is now trapped in the debate over a program protecting hundreds of thousands of immigrants like her from deportation. Whether she becomes a doctor depends on whether Congress finds an alternative to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Donald Trump phased out last month.

Arreola, who was brought to the U.S. illegally at age 14, is among about 100 medical students nationwide who are enrolled in DACA, and many have become a powerful voice in the immigration debate. Their stories have resonated with leaders in Washington. Having excelled in school and gained admission into competitive medical schools, they’re on the verge of starting residencies to treat patients, a move experts say could help address the nation’s worsening doctor shortage.

“It’s mostly a tragedy of wasted talent and resources,” said Mark Kuczewski, who leads the medical education department at Loyola University’s medical school, where Arreola is in her second year. “Our country will have said, ‘You cannot go treat patients.’”

The Chicago-area medical school was the first to openly accept DACA students and has the largest concentration nationwide at 32. California and New York also have significant populations, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

DACA gives protection to about 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who otherwise would lack legal permission to be in the country. The immigrants must meet strict criteria to receive two-year permits that shield them from deportation and allow them to work.

Then-President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012. Critics call it an illegal amnesty program that is taking jobs from U.S. citizens. In rescinding it last month, Trump gave lawmakers until March to come up with a replacement.

Public support for DACA is wide. A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that just 1 in 5 Americans want to deport DACA recipients.

Arreola took a break from her studies last month to travel to Washington with fellow Loyola medical students and DACA recipient Cesar Montelongo Hernandez to talk to stakeholders. In their meetings with lawmakers, they framed the program as a medical necessity but also want a solution for others with DACA.

A 2017 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortfall of between about 35,000 and 83,000 doctors in 2025. That shortage is expected to increase with population growth and aging.

Hernandez, a 28-year-old from Mexico simultaneously pursuing a Ph.D., wants to focus his research on early detection of diseases. His work permit expires next September, and he’s worried he won’t qualify for scientific research funding without the program.

“I’ve shown I deserve to be here,” said Hernandez, who met with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who’s called for Congress to quickly pass a replacement for DACA.

For Arreola it’s about returning to the state she’s called home since she was 14 and giving back to areas in need of doctors.

“My family is from there; I know those people,” Arreola said. “Those are the people that inspired to really give this a push.”

Among those Arreola met with were policy staff for Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who believes the Obama program was “an overreach of executive power” but also wants Congress to write a plan to protect DACA recipients.

Medical school administrators say the immigrant medical students stand out even among their accomplished peers: They’re often bilingual and bicultural, have overcome adversity and are more likely to work with underserved populations or rural areas.

“They come with a cultural competency for how to best treat the individuals from their background, whether immigrants or different races and ethnicities,” said Matthew Shick, a government relations director for the Association of American Medical Colleges. “That gets translated over to their peers in education and training.”

Zarna Patel, 24, is a third-year student at Loyola who was brought to the U.S. from India as a 3-year-old without any legal documents. Her DACA permit expires in January, and she’s trying to renew it so she can continue medical school rotations that require clinical work. If she’s able to work in U.S., Patel will work in disadvantaged areas of Illinois for four years, part of her agreement to get school loans.

“Growing up, I didn’t have insurance,” she said. “I knew what that felt like, being locked out of the whole system.”

For others, there’s added worry of being stuck with debt they can’t repay.

Marcela Zhou, who was born in Mexico after her family moved there from China, is in her third year at the University of California at Los Angeles’ medical school. She wants to work in public health.

“Can I even afford to finish medical school?” said Zhou, who was 12 when she came to the U.S. on a visitor visa that eventually expired. “It’s sort of hard sometimes to keep going.”(VOA)

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Donald Trump to Revisit Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) if Congress Stumbles

DACA did not promise participants citizenship or permanent U.S. residency, instead promising a reprieve from deportation

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Jennifer Hernandez (L) and Paola Rodriguez, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients, participate in a candle vigil at the San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas, Sept. 5, 2017. VOA

Sep 06, 2017: President Donald Trump says he will revisit the decision to end a program that shielded nearly 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants from deportation if Congress doesn’t act on the issue.

Hours after administration officials said new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, will no longer be accepted, Trump tweeted late Tuesday that “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”

Action by Congress is not certain. Lawmakers have been unsuccessful for years in their efforts to revise substantially U.S. immigration policies. During Obama’s eight years as president, the Senate – controlled by members of his Democratic Party for most of that time — approved major policy changes only to see the legislation fail in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

President Trump approved the decision to end DACA but sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions before news cameras Tuesday to announce the controversial policy change.

“DACA is being rescinded,” Sessions announced. The action revoked an executive order former President Barack Obama issued five years ago after the U.S. Congress repeatedly failed to agree on an immigration reform bill.

WATCH: Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Sessions argued that Obama’s “open-ended circumvention of immigration laws” was in violation of the U.S. constitution and unlikely to survive a legal challenge brought by several Republican-controlled states.

Former President Barack Obama, who has refrained from commenting on most of the policy changes Trump has enacted this year, challenged Sessions’ legal argument in a strongly worded statement, saying the decision was “purely political” and that it targeted young people who “have done nothing wrong.”

Demonstrators opposed to the administration’s decision massed in Washington, Los Angeles, New York, Denver and other cities.

WATCH: ‘Dreamers’ Vow to Fight to Keep DACA Until the Bitter End

Activist Gustavo Torres told a crowd outside the White House: “This president lied to our community. … He told us, ‘I have a big heart for you dreamers.’ He’s a liar!”

Protesters react to the cancellation of DACA outside the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, Sept. 5, 2017. (PVohra/VOA)
Protesters react to the cancellation of DACA outside the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, Sept. 5, 2017. (PVohra/VOA)

The future status of the hundreds of thousands of young, foreign-born students and workers is unclear for now, since they are no longer protected from summary deportation by the DACA program. Congress will have six months to act if it wants to continue to allow them to remain in the United States.

The young immigrants, also colloquially known as “dreamers,” typically entered the United States as young children. Many trace their heritage to Mexico or Central American countries, but some arrived so young that they have grown up knowing nothing other than American society and customs.

DACA supporters march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to protest shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay, Sept. 5, 2017.
DACA supporters march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to protest shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay, Sept. 5, 2017. VOA

Anyone who joined the “deferred action” program for work and study was required to have and maintain a clean criminal record. DACA did not promise participants citizenship or permanent U.S. residency, instead promising a reprieve from deportation.

DACA Changes Explained

The program was initially intended as a stop-gap measure to protect aspiring young immigrants, while Congress was to come up with a more lasting solution to their problems.

“I have a love for these people,” Trump said at the White House late Tuesday, “and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.” Earlier he had issued only a written statement stating that federal immigration patrols would not make seeking out DACA recipients for detention and deportation a priority issue. (VOA)

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DACA is a Bold Welcome Step by President Trump

Stand for immigrants! But, please stand for legal immigrants, not fence crossers!

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Protest against Ending the DACA
Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA chant slogans and hold signs while joining a Labor Day rally in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 4, 2017.VOA

I congratulate President Trump for taking the bold decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

President Obama had introduced DACA under which kids brought illegally in the USA did not have to worry about deportation. DACA allowed these otherwise undocumented children to stay on and even get jobs. Now, since DACA has been rescinded by President Trump, it is estimated that 800,000 such beneficiaries risk being declared illegal and deported. However, it may be noted that Trump has asked Congress to legislate this issue and in effect has opened the possibility of finding some alternative solution.

The immigration system is in shambles in this country.  Millions of law abiding immigrants who enter the country with proper documents have to wait for painful long years to acquire the permanent residency (Green Card). Why? Because the immigration system is lethargic, inefficient and poorly funded. Also, legal immigrants do not constitute a big vote bank: after all educated, law abiding people do not turn into herds, flocks and tribes to demand swifter justice! Why would they? Also, the immigration policy is extremely biased and compartmentalizes people of different nationalities (thus,  legal immigrants from Europe (read the White) do not have to stand in long line (in other words, their Priority Date (PD) is typically always Current), but people from China, India have to wait for excruciatingly long years to get their Green Card (those who think India alone has social injustice in form of caste-based reservation where ‘castocracy’ trumps meritocracy, think twice! USA has a nationality-based reservation!).

No one talks about fixing the broken immigration system. The liberal media in the USA seems to have a permanent amnesia towards this issue. But, talk about illegal (undocumented workers) and the Democrats and liberal (I call them pseudo-liberal) media would erupt into an uproar. Obama had 8 full years to turn the monstrous immigration system into a vehicle of justice, equality, and the land of law. But, his priorities were elsewhere. The one thing Obama did not forget was to announce Amnesty for the illegal announcement. Amnesty is like awarding a lotto: in a single swift shot, overnight an illegally staying person in the USA becomes legal. What a joke! And, also, it is a slap on law abiding people who enter the country to make American dream true. A just society does not reward illegal immigrants with jackpots (read Amnesty), while legal immigrants continue to languish in the hope of getting their Green Cards!

Let us not forget DACA was the brain child of Obama only.

It is ludicrous to see Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft and other silicon valley companies raising a hue and cry about the death of DACA. All along these years, they should have lobbied hard for strengthening H1B visa program so that skillful professionals could come more easily to the US and contribute to the innovation and enterprise.

And one more point: Why is there an impression that Latinos come out openly in support of illegal immigrants? It is one thing if crowds come out and protest AGAINST illegal immigration. But perplexingly enough, human right advocates, liberal groups never tire out taking to the streets to support undocumented workers.

An illegal is illegal. S(he) is taking away space for a rightful person.

Stand for immigrants! But, please stand for legal immigrants, not fence crossers!

The author is the Editor-in-Chief of NewsGram. Twitter @drMunishRaizada

 

 

 

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Sudanese Children of Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Released in Libya

Four Sudanese Children were handed over to the Sudanese consul

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A Sudanese official holds a child of Sudanese Islamic State members who operated in Libya, after Libyan Red Crescent handed them over, in Misrata, Libya
A Sudanese official holds a child of Sudanese Islamic State members who operated in Libya, after Libyan Red Crescent handed them over, in Misrata, Libya. VOA
  • Sirte was a stronghold for Islamic State from 2015-2016
  • Hundreds of foreign militants joined Islamic State in Sirte
  • Dozens of women and children detained towards the end of the fighting have been held in Misrata