An undocumented Loyola medical student will travel with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to Washington, D.C. Tuesday for President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address.
Cesar Montelongo, a third-year student at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, is the first student in the MD-PhD program protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), according to an announcement from Durbin’s office Monday. He will travel as Durbin’s guest to the State of the Union to highlight the need for a permanent DACA solution.
Montelongo’s family left Juarez, Mexico due to growing violence in the city when he was 10 years old. They joined his grandmother in Las Cruces, New Mexico, just 50 miles away. He grew up in Las Cruces and excelled academically, eventually being accepted to Loyola to attend medical school.
Though this wasn’t Montelongo’s first meeting with Durbin, he said he had mixed feelings about it this time around.
“I’m very honored that I was asked to attend as Senator Durbin’s guest,” Montelongo said. “It’s been a huge jump going from where I was a few years ago to now. But also, in a way, it’s unfortunate to be in this position where we’re essentially advocating for protections so that we can keep living in this country.”
DACA was an Obama-era policy that protected people brought to the United States as children from deportation. It was ended by Trump on Sept. 5. DACA protections remain in place for now but will end on March 5. Durbin introduced the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill to give undocumented children, often called “Dreamers,” permanent legal status.
On Jan. 20, Durbin brought another undocumented Loyola medical student, Alejandra Duran Arreola, to the Capitol to advocate for a solution for the Dreamers. Stritch has almost half of the almost 70 DACA recipients enrolled in medical school around the country.
“I am honored to host this extremely gifted medical student as my guest,” Durbin said in a press release. “I hope Cesar’s presence reminds President Trump what’s at stake in the debate over DACA: the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent young people who want to contribute to our country’s future.”