- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Born with tumors that distorted one side of his face and abandoned by his parents at an orphanage when he was 15, Sopuruchi Chukwueke was brought from Nigeria to the United States by a missionary nun 11 years ago, has graduated from high school and college, and has been accepted to the University of Toledo’s medical school. However, he can’t start classes because the visa he used to travel to the U.S. ran out ten years ago. As Bloomberg reports, his hopes now rest on an act of Congress:
He can’t start classes this month, though, because the visa that enabled him to travel to Michigan for treatment expired 10 years ago, and he has been in the U.S. illegally since then. The only hope Chukwueke has of achieving his goal is enactment of legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, that applies solely to him and would give him permanent U.S. residency.
This is tried more than you might think:
A long-shot option for obtaining legal status is a private- relief bill, which applies to just one person and is frequently related to an immigration issue. While about 100 such bills are introduced in each two-year congressional session, few are enacted: So far in the current session of Congress, which started Jan. 1, 2011, none of the 82 that have been introduced has reached the White House. In 2009 and 2010, only two became law. In 2007 and 2008, none succeeded.
Chukwueke’s story also highlights the limits of the immigration reform which came into effect in the United States last week, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they were 16 to remain on visas which must be renewed every two years. His medical school will only allow him to attend classes if he attains permanent residency status.
Meanwhile, "Dream Act-lite" is running into problems of its own as the governors of Arizona and Nebraska say they will still refuse to give driver’s licenses or other state benefits to people enrolled in the program.