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Considerations for Residency Programs Regarding Accepting Undocumented Students Who Are DACA Recipients

Nakae, Sunny MSW, PhD; Rojas Marquez, Denisse; Di Bartolo, Isha Marina MD; Rodriguez, Raquel MPP, MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001731
AM Rounds Blog Post

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative provides for the temporary deferral of enforcement of immigration laws for certain undocumented individuals brought to the United States before age 16. More than 50 medical schools now consider applicants who are DACA recipients, and medical school graduates with DACA are eligible to continue their training in graduate medical education. In this article, the authors summarize current policy and provide data on DACA recipients in medical school. They then review the implications for considering DACA recipients in graduate medical education, including employment guidelines, employer responsibilities, training at Veterans Affairs facilities, research funding, and professional licensure. They conclude by discussing the future of the DACA program and best practices for supporting students who are DACA recipients.

First, there are no employment restrictions for DACA recipients with valid work authorization documents as long as their employers use Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification. Second, unlike H-1B or J-1 visa holders, DACA recipients do not generate additional immigration-related costs for their residency programs. Next, provisions in the Civil Rights Act prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants based on national origin or, in some cases, citizenship status. Furthermore, trainees with DACA are eligible to rotate through Veterans Affairs facilities. Finally, some states, like California and New York, have adopted policies and regulations allowing trainees with DACA who meet all professional requirements to receive a medical license. Given this state of affairs, DACA recipients should have equal standing to their peers when being evaluated for residency positions.

S. Nakae is assistant dean for admissions, recruitment, and student life and assistant professor of medical education, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Illinois.

D. Rojas Marquez is a third-year medical student, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, and founding member, Pre-Health Dreamers, San Francisco, California.

I.M. Di Bartolo is a first-year internal medicine resident, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

R. Rodriguez is a first-year family medicine resident, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, Los Angeles, California.

Editor’s Note: An Invited Commentary by N.I. Poll-Hunter, G.H. Young, and M. Shick appears on pages 1512–1514.

An AM Rounds blog post on this article is available at

Funding/Support: Pre-Health Dreamers is funded by the Werner-Kohnstamm Family Fund, the Leslie Family Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, the California Endowment, Robert and Colleen Haas, and Elise K. Haas.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Disclaimer: The guidelines presented in this article are not intended as legal advice. Readers are encouraged to consult legal counsel at their institutions and specific local policies as they enact changes to include recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in their programs.

Previous presentations: An abridged version of these guidelines was distributed through the Association of American Medical Colleges’ listserv in September 2015 and October 2016.

Correspondence should be addressed to Sunny Nakae, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, 2160 S. 1st Ave., Building 120, Room 211, Maywood, IL 60153; telephone: (708) 216-3229; e-mail:; Twitter: @DrNakae.

© 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges