Saturday, December 29, 2012
A Nigerian immigrant's dream came true when Barack Obama signed into law a rare private bill granting him permanent residency in the Unites States
Victor Chukwueke, who lives in Michigan on an expired visa, came to the United States 11 years ago to undergo treatment for massive face tumors. He graduated from a university in the state, and plans to attend an Ohio medical school that requires him to have permanent residency, also known as a green card. In a rare act, the United States Congress passed a private bill granting him permanent residency and Obama has signed the bill. Private bills - which only apply to one person and mostly focus on immigration - are rarely approved. His is the only one to pass in Congress in two years. Before coming to the United States at age 15, Chukwueke lived in the southeastern Nigeria town of Ovim. He suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes massive life-threatening tumors on his face. Treated as an outcast because of his deformed face, he was depressed and humiliated, he says. His family abandoned him at an orphanage after taking him to the nation's best facilities for treatment. "I went to a large teaching hospital in Nigeria and the doctor touched my face and said there was nothing they could do," he says. " I cried and begged him to do something. I was so tired of the humiliation." Nuns from the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy rescued him from the orphanage in 2001 and arranged for a Michigan doctor to perform surgery on him. He considers himself lucky to have developed the tumors. "Without them, I would not have met the nun, left Nigeria, arrived in the U.S. and had the miracle to attend medical school," he says. He lives with the nuns in Oak Park, Michigan. They have cared for him since he came to the U.S., where he has undergone seven surgeries, including one that left him blind in the right eye. Inspired by his story, Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Jewish Democrat, sponsored the bill, S. 285. The measure passed the Senate and the House. The number of illegal immigrants in the United States was estimated at 11.5 million in 2011.