Durbin Highlights Immigrant Health Heroes On The Frontlines Of COVID-19 On Senate Floor

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, today thanked the health care heroes on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted one special group of health care workers – immigrants.  Durbin also called on Senate Republicans to support the bipartisan House-passed American Dream and Promise Act, which will establish a path to citizenship for Dreamers and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

While court decisions on DACA and TPS hang in the balance, Dreamers and TPS holders across the country are working on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 as doctors, nurses, health care professionals, and in countless other essential job roles.  Despite their contributions to the American workforce, the Trump Administration is focused on arbitrarily ending the programs that allow approximately 131,300 TPS holders and 202,500 DACA recipients to serve on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

During his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin announced a new initiative to share the stories of these #ImmigrantHealthHeroes on the floor of the Senate.  Today, Durbin shared the story of Manuel Bernal, a DACA recipient and emergency room resident at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Chicago, one of the busiest trauma hospitals on Chicago’s South Side.

“As long as I am a U.S. Senator, I’m going to continue to come to the floor of the Senate to advocate for Manuel and for thousands of others who simply want a chance to prove themselves, to earn their way into America’s future,” Durbin said.  “It would be an American tragedy, at this moment when we face this national emergency, to lose these brave and talented young people.  They are saving lives every day, and risking their own to do it.  We must ensure that Manuel and hundreds of thousands of others in our essential workforce are not forced to stop working when their services are needed now more than ever.” 

Durbin continued, “And ultimately, we need to pass legislation that is just commonsense, that says that these young people who came here as kids and have worked doubly hard under the greatest of pressures and have made a success of their lives, like this young man [Manuel], can stay in America and be part of our future.  He’s truly a health care hero, an immigrant health care hero, and there are thousands just like him across America.  We need them now more than ever.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin first introduced the Dream Act nineteen years ago.  In March 2019, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Durbin introduced the Dream Act of 2019.  The Dream Act was also included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin and Graham coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight” – four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.

Last month, Durbin led 37 Senators in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to automatically extend work authorizations for DACA and TPS recipients and other impacted immigrants.

Manuel is the 120th Dreamer whose story Durbin has told on the Senate floor.  Manuel’s parents brought him to the United States when he was only two years old.  He grew up in Memphis, Tennessee.  Manuel graduated in the top ten percent of his high school class, and he was a leader of several high school honor societies.  In his spare time, Manuel was a swimmer and a football player, and he volunteered with the St. Jude Club and the Key Club.

Manuel continued his education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  He graduated summa cum laude with a major in biology and minor in chemistry.  In college, Manuel worked as a medical scribe for doctors in the emergency room of a small community hospital in Chattanooga.  After this experience, Manuel decided that he wanted to become an emergency room physician. 

Manuel continued his education at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.  He was one of dozens of DACA recipients at Stritch, the first medical school to admit DACA students.