Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 9.10.47 AMBY ISN STAFFFebruary 7, 2014

Earlier this week Senator Richard Durbin (IL-D) spoke on the Senate floor about Pablo da Silva, a medical student studying at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine to become cardiothoracic surgeon who is undocumented. Da Silva is one of many undocumented students attending Stritch since Loyola became the first university in the U.S. to publicly accept undocumented medical students in 2014.  The Illinois senator shared how da Silva’s desire to become a doctor started at a young age through weekly service at nursing homes and with a volunteer program called “Doctor Red Nose,” which provides entertainment and companionship to hospital and nursing home patients and staff.  Da Silva was accepted for undergraduate studies at Rutgers University. However, lacking any access to financial aid as an undocumented student he began studies at a community college before eventually graduating Summa Cum Laude from Kean University. Seeking to enter medical school, da Silva came to learn about Loyola’s commitment to accepting undocumented students and applied.  Loyola’s policy allow students to receive loans through the Illinois Finance Authority while making a commitment to provide a year of service in a designated underserved area of the State of Illinois for each year he or she receives the loan.

Durbin’s testimony came during debate on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, passed in the U.S. House last month with an amendment to defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Over 700,000 undocumented individuals, including da Silva are current benefiting from the deferred action program which permits individuals brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age to remain the U.S. to study or work full-time without threat of deportation. The House Bill also includes an amendment to defund the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program established by the Obama administration last November and scheduled to begin later this month, if DHS funding is approved by Congress. As of February 7, 2015, the DHS funding bill remains stalled in the Senate while immigrant rights advocates like Durbin advocate for its passage without the DACA and DAPA defunding amendments.

Since initial attempts to enact the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) in 2011, Senator Durbin has shared many stories of young people without documentation from Illinois and beyond.

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