December 14, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy
In September, President Donald Trump indicated that he plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allows unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to work legally and protects them from deportation. If Congress fails to take legislative action, approximately 800,000 DACA recipients—called “dreamers”—will be at risk of deportation in March 2018. More than a fourth of them reside in California.
The California Medical Association (CMA) is urging Congress to immediately and permanently resolve the status of these individuals, many of whom are making important contributions to the only country they have ever known.
We are already facing a national shortage of physicians and other health care professionals, and revoking DACA could also undermine patient care and disrupt the health care system for decades to come.
More than 100 students with DACA status applied to U.S. medical schools last year. The number of DACA recipients accepted into medical school has steadily increased – from 26 in 2014 to 112 in 2016. These future physicians are now facing uncertainty about completing their degrees, paying their student loans and serving patients. Furthermore, if DACA physician 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.
Removing DACA individuals will exacerbate health care provider shortages, particularly for rural and other underserved areas. More than 94 percent of the 800 health-career-bound DACA dreamers want to provide health care in underserved areas. DACA physicians are more likely to work in high-need areas where communities face challenges in recruiting physicians. These individuals are also more likely to be bilingual, to come from diverse cultural backgrounds and to understand challenges in certain ethnic communities.
CMA urges Congress to support solutions that don’t needlessly punish young Americans, preserve patient access to care, alleviate our nation’s physician shortage and support health care workforce diversity.