It will be up to President Barack Obama to decide whether Sopuruchi Chukwueke gets to go to medical school.
If Obama signs legislation written to apply only to Chukwueke, the Nigerian-born man living with a genetic disorder that causes facial tumors will get the green card he needs to be admitted to the University of Toledo. The bill won final passage yesterday from the U.S. House.
“Only in this country can something this wonderful happen to someone like me,” Chukwueke, who goes by his middle name, Victor, said in a telephone interview from Michigan. “This is the best gift for Christmas ever.”
Of the 83 private-relief measures introduced in the last two years, Chukwueke’s bill, S. 285, is the only one to have been passed by both houses of Congress.
The bill would grant permanent residency to Chukwueke as long as he applies for it within two years of the bill becoming law. It would reduce, by one, the number of immigrant visas available to Nigerians and would bar preferential treatment for members of his family.
“Victor’s amazing courage and determination exemplify much of what is so great about our country,” the bill’s sponsor, Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement after the House action. “Already, his example has enriched Michigan and our nation, but I know that his contributions to our country are only beginning.”
Chukwueke arrived in the U.S. when he was 15, after nuns at an orphanage in Nigeria arranged for medical care in Michigan. Over time, surgeons removed facial tumors caused by neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder, and the visa that allowed him to come for treatment expired 10 years ago. He has been in the U.S. illegally since then.
Chukwueke, now 26, lives in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park with the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, a Nigeria-based order of Roman Catholic nuns who work with the poor in Africa, Europe and North America. Members of the order have cared for him since he arrived from the orphanage.
Even as he underwent seven surgeries, one of which resulted in the loss of his right eye, Chukwueke received a high-school equivalency diploma and, with the aid of a wealthy benefactor, graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit with a 3.82 average in biochemistry and chemical biology.
He was accepted at the University of Toledo’s medical school in Ohio on the condition that his visa status be resolved by the end of this year so he can start classes in August 2013.