New Mexico

New Mexico ‘dreamer' in medical school faces uncertainty

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) - Hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people face uncertainties as the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, remains up in the air.

One New Mexican has been following the situation closely, all while trying to keep up with the rigors of medical school.

“My desire to be a physician goes back to when I was a little kid living in Mexico,” said Cesar Montelongo.

He was 10-years-old when his family moved to Las Cruces from Ciudad Juarez. He excelled in school and got a full ride to New Mexico State University.

Once he finished, came the reality of his undocumented status.

“So I ended up just being more or less unemployed after graduation even though I had three degrees. I had honors, I had like almost a 4.0 GPA and it was very difficult emotionally,” Montelongo said.

The DACA program came as a huge relief in 2012 to Montelongo. He then set his eyes on medical school.

“Being undocumented, you grow up realizing that you can work as hard as you can and sometimes things just don’t work out,” he said.

At the time, med schools were still weighing how to admit DACA recipients and determine how students would pay for it, without qualifying for federal aid.

Montelongo went for a masters in biology in the meantime. Then, his dream came true.

“So just finally getting to that point in my life where things were actually starting to pay off and work out after like 15 years of working, it was just an amazing feeling,” Montelongo said.

Three years ago, Montelongo was admitted with a full scholarship to the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University, Chicago.

He is one of fewer than 100 medical students nationwide under DACA.

“It’s going very well. It’s really enjoyable,” he said.

President Trump’s announcement to rescind DACA came as a blow during board exams in September.

“So it was like I have to do very well on this test but at the same time all these things are happening that are going to make my life very hard and uncertain,” he explained.

Without a permanent solution from Congress for dreamers like Montelongo, his dream of being a doctor could fall short.

“I see myself as a New Mexican and I really do want to come back and practice in New Mexico eventually.”

In January, Montelongo was the guest of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin at the State of the Union address in Washington.


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