Vt. Medical Student Urges Congress to Protect DACA Recipients

A Vermont "Dreamer" who received legal protections under DACA, the Obama-era rules on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is pleading with Congress to extend assurances to young people like him who live peacefully, work, and are receiving educations in the United States.

"My story is not yet complete, but I rest with confidence knowing it is the American people who will get to decide how it ends," Juan Conde, 31, said of the work now before Congress.

Conde said his mom brought him from Mexico to Texas at just 9 years old, as a child immigrant here without government permission.

He quietly worked hard and went to college and graduate school, studying science.

Conde is now in his first-year at the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine, where his mother's death from cancer has him driven to help find new treatments or even a cure.

"Only in America could my story be true," he said, reflecting on his journey to medical school.

After President Donald Trump announced the upcoming end to DACA, which extended certain legal rights to people who came here as children with undocumented parents, the medical student wanted to speak up and urge Congress to extend protections to the hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers like him.

"Someone asked me earlier in the week whether I was afraid to reveal myself," Conde said. "I will tell them that I am tired of being afraid. This is my home. The American people are my people."

Tom Sullivan, the president of the University of Vermont, said in response to reporters' questions that a handful of people have come forward to university administrators and revealed themselves as being DACA recipients.

Sullivan said that UVM vigorously defends the privacy and legal rights of its faculty, students, and staff, and will stand by any members of the university community and back them with what he described as the nation's "moral obligation" to its Dreamers.

"He is a great example of the very kind of young person we want to be in the United States," Sullivan said of Juan Conde. "One of great character, demonstrated talent and high competence, persistence through success, and real accomplishments in making the lives of other people better."

In a tweet last week, President Trump said Dreamers have nothing to worry about for the six months he's given Congress to act on a fix.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, said there is already bipartisan support for preserving DACA.

"I agree that President Trump, in telling Congress to do its job, is correct," Welch said. "We should do our job. We should pass, by law, legal protections for individuals like Juan who were brought here when they were young by their parents."

Welch also said he believes that lawmakers' discussions of extending DACA's protections should be handled separately from any other debates over immigration policy, because it is an entirely different discussion from border security or other immigration issues.

Rep. Welch said he and Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, will be telling Juan Conde's story in Washington as they make their cases about why Dreamers should be protected.

Other UVM medical students hugged or applauded Conde after he gave remarks to members of the media. The students voiced their support for their classmate and for his contributions to their learning environment.

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