His bill, which is being sponsored by U.S. Senator, Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, applies solely to him. Vanguard reports that it would grant him permanent residency as long as he applies for it within two years of the bill becoming law.
You may ask why he has been singled out amongst thousands of Nigerians for a bill to ensure he gets permanent U.S. residency. Well, his story as reported by Bloomberg an inspiring one:
Sopuruchi Chukwueke grew up as an outcast in the village of Ovim in southeastern Nigeria. Tumors that distorted one side of his face wouldn’t stop growing, and doctors said he should be taken away and drowned. In 2001, when he was 15, his parents took him to an orphanage and abandoned him.
He was rescued by a missionary nun, who arranged medical care in the U.S. Eleven years and seven operations later, doctors have removed the benign growths caused by the genetic disease neurofibromatosis, and have performed reconstructive surgery.
In that time, Chukwueke, who lost his right eye to the tumors, has earned a High School equivalency Diploma, achieved a 3.82 grade-point average as a Biochemistry and Chemical Biology major at Wayne State University in Detroit and won acceptance to the University of Toledo’s Medical School in Ohio.
“My own personal struggles to receive treatment have motivated, inspired and continually encouraged me to pursue a medical career,” he told Bloomberg in an interview conducted by e-mail because extensive surgeries to his mouth and jaw make it hard for him to speak clearly on the telephone.
“Nigerian doctors told me that there was nothing they could do, that they do not have the facilities and expertise to handle my sophisticated medical problem.”
Chukwueke’s family – his father, who is blind, his mother, and his six brothers and sisters – is still in Nigeria. With help from Christopher Harris, an Administrator in the Pathology Department at Wayne State’s Medical School and Senator Levin’s office, his mother, Mary was in Detroit in May 2011 to see her son for the first time in a decade and watch him address his graduating class at commencement.
He had his seventh surgery that summer and applied to Medical School in the fall. In November he was admitted to the University of Toledo with one condition: that he obtain permanent-residency status by August 1 of this year.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion. I said wow! This is a dream come true.” he said by email about how he felt when he was accepted.
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 United States illegally since then. The only hope Chukwueke has of achieving his goal is enactment of the legislation sponsored by Senator Levin that applies solely to him and would give him permanent U.S. residency.
Chukwueke said he initially reached out to Levin’s office with the assistance of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an Arlington, Virginia-based charity that works on refugee and immigration issues worldwide. A private-relief bill “was my only option given my immigration status,” he told Bloomberg by e-mail.
When the bill passed the Senate last month, he said, “it was nothing less than a miracle.”
Chukwueke will have to wait a little longer to find out whether House leaders will make time on the floor schedule for his bill, as Congress is in recess until September 10.
With classes starting Aug. 20, he won’t be attending medical school this year. The University of Toledo has told him that he can start in 2013 if his bill becomes law.
His goals now, Chukwueke said, are staying in the U.S., getting his medical degree and “alleviating the pain and suffering of others, especially those in underserved communities and nations.”
For the last year he has volunteered at a medical research lab, shadowed a surgeon at a clinic, and been involved with the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a neurofibromatosis support group.
Chukwueke still needs surgery to allow insertion of a glass eye and to repair his nose.
His story is indeed an exceptional one and it is hoped he gets the necessary legislation to enable him fulfill his dreams.
Well done Sopuruchi Chukwueke!
Photo Credit: Bloomberg