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AMA Urges Congress to Protect DACA Medical Students
By by Jennifer Bihm, Staff Writer
Published September 14, 2017

According to recent stats, immigrants make up a sizeable proportion of the U.S. health care workforce. (file photo)

The American Medical Association recently sent a letter to the United States Congress, urging its members to act swiftly to ensure delayed action for childhood arrivals protection for immigrants in the medical industry. According to migrationpolicy.org, “immigrants make up a sizeable proportion of the U.S. health care workforce. In 2010, the foreign born accounted for 16 percent of all civilians employed in health care occupations in the United States.

“In some health care professions, this share was larger. More than one-quarter of physicians and surgeons (27 percent) were foreign born, as were more than one out of every five (22 percent) persons working in health care support jobs as nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides,” said MP officials.

“President Trump’s recent announcement to end the DACA program in six months, fails to recognize the enormous contributions of hundreds of thousands of individuals who are living, working, and providing vital services in the United States, including health care services,” wrote AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, M.D.

“We particularly are concerned that this reversal in policy could have severe consequences for many in the health care workforce, impacting patients and our nation’s health care system. Accordingly, we urge Congress to act quickly to ensure that individuals with DACA status are able to remain in the United States.”

AMA members said Trump’s decision will greatly affect the level and quality of care in many areas of the country. Many with DACA status are filling gaps in care, they said. They come from diverse cultural backgrounds, and to understand challenges in certain ethnic communities.

“Those protected by the DACA program also include medical students, residents, and fellows who are working to pass the lengthy and rigorous training and education needed to become a physician,” AMA members wrote in the letter.

“In 2016, 108 students with DACA status applied to U.S. allopathic medical schools. Those who enrolled will now face uncertainty about completing their degrees, paying their student loans, and serving patients. Furthermore, if DACA residents are unable to complete their training, which typically spans three to six years after medical school, this could potentially waste graduate medical education funds, leave training slots unfilled, and generally exacerbate the physician shortage our country is facing, especially for our most vulnerable patients. The AMA believes that these DACA recipients should be able to continue to study, work, and improve patient access to care without the fear and uncertainty of being deported before their training is completed …”

According to news reports, Trump’s order also stands to undermine hospital IT staffs that rely heavily on foreign talent to develop software and digital health products, and to manage reams of sensitive internal data.

Meanwhile, the AMA offered a possible solution to Congress.

“The Administration has acknowledged that Congress could act to continue the DACA program and has provided a six-month timeframe for lawmakers to consider alternatives,” the letter reads.

“The AMA urges Congress to pass legislation, such as the Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615/H.R. 3440), that would provide a solution to ensure DACA recipients are protected and do not face continuous threats and potential legal challenges.”

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