Legal Immigrant Pre-Med Student Not Receiving Same Benefits As Illegals

"I played by the rules on immigration. Why is the U.S. making it so hard for me to become a doctor?"

A Canadian immigrant pursuing a pre-med degree at a university in Florida is finding it difficult to pursue his American dream of becoming a doctor because of his "non-resident alien" status. Writing a commentary for The Daily Signal, the young man shares his frustration of playing by the rules as an immigrant, while illegal immigrants receive special treatment.

Brandon Macknofsky came to the United States with his parents at age six. He grew up and went to school in Coral Springs, Florida. Currently, he is enrolled at Florida Atlantic University, pursuing a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and pre-med. His dream is to one day become a doctor. 

Macknofsky entered the U.S. under his father's work visa and now has his own student visa. He explains that his father is "a typical hard-working American citizen" -- "paid his taxes…[and] worked feverishly as a computer consultant." Now, his father has been sponsored for a green card and the family's path to citizenship is as close as ever.

For Macknofsky, this meant he could now attend medical school. However, he soon found out that since he had recently turned 21, he had "aged out" and couldn't remain under his father's green card. This means he is considered an international student and can't enroll in state medical school. Looking for an alternative, he found out that few private universities will accept students without green cards. And even if he were allowed enrollment in a private university, Macknofsky couldn't secure a student loan or a scholarship without a green card.

Macknofsky's complaint is simple: He is living legally in the U.S., but still pays out-of-state tuition at Florida Atlantic University. Yet, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a new law that grants in-state tuition to illegals. Macknofsky asks:

How can someone who is living in the United States illegally get a tuition break but I get penalized for doing things legally?

I played by the rules on immigration. Why is the U.S. making it so hard for me to become a doctor?

Macknofsky makes his plea:

At Florida Atlantic University, I have a 3.87 GPA, tutor for biochemistry and work up to 10-hour shifts as a hospital emergency room physician scribe a few times a week. At a time when the United States is facing a shortage of doctors, I’m committed to a career in medicine. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunities in life that I hope I can give back to my community through medicine.

For the past 15 years, I’ve come to call the United States my home. I consider myself an American in every way, and I hope that one day, I’ll become a citizen. In the meantime, though, I hope our nation’s leaders will remember those of us who are following a legal path to citizenship and at least level the playing field for us.


Photo: Marcie Macknofsky

Issues