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Undocumented Students Pursuing Medical Education: The Implications of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Balderas-Medina Anaya, Yohualli MD, MPH; del Rosario, Mithi; Doyle, Lawrence “Hy EdD”; Hayes-Bautista, David E. PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000407
Perspectives

There are about 1.8 million young immigrants in the United States who came or were brought to the country without documentation before the age of 16. These youth have been raised and educated in the United States and have aspirations and educational achievements similar to those of their native-born peers. However, their undocumented status has hindered their pursuit of higher education, especially in medical and other graduate health sciences. Under a new discretionary policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), many of these young immigrants are eligible to receive permission to reside and work in the United States. DACA defers deportation of eligible, undocumented youth and grants lawful presence in the United States, work permits, Social Security numbers, and, in most states, driver’s licenses. These privileges have diminished the barriers undocumented students traditionally have faced in obtaining higher education, specifically in pursuing medicine. With the advent of DACA, students are slowly matriculating into U.S. medical schools and residencies. However, this applicant pool remains largely untapped. In the face of a physician shortage and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, an increase in matriculation of qualified undocumented students would be greatly beneficial. This Perspective is intended to begin discussion within the academic medicine community of the implications of DACA in reducing barriers for the selection and matriculation of undocumented medical students and residents. Moreover, this Perspective is a call to peers in the medical community to support undocumented students seeking access to medical school, residency, and other health professions.

Dr. Balderas-Medina Anaya is resident physician, Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California.

Ms. del Rosario is premedicine staff researcher, Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, UCLA, Los Angeles, California.

Dr. Doyle is executive director, Program in Medical Education (PRIME), and associate professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California.

Dr. Hayes-Bautista is professor of medicine and director, Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Previous presentations: Symposium on the Science of Learning in Medical Education at the University of California, Los Angeles (October 8, 2013); and Association of American Medical Colleges Annual Meeting (November 1–6, 2013), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Hayes-Bautista, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 200-Q, Los Angeles, CA 90024; telephone: (310) 794-0663; e-mail: dhayesb@ucla.edu.

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges