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.