June 19, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Workforce
The California Medical Association (CMA) hailed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that protected the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As a result of the court’s 5-4 decision, an estimated 30,000 “Dreamers” working in, or training to join, health care professions will now be allowed to stay in the United States.
CMA was among the many groups that signed an amicus brief in the case of Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California arguing against the Trump Administration’s efforts to ban the program. The brief focused on the harmful impact a DACA repeal would have on our nation’s health care workforce, taking tens of thousands of medical professionals out of hospitals and clinics around the country.
“Repealing DACA would have reduced California’s health care capacity when we can least afford it,” said CMA President Peter N. Bretan, Jr., M.D. “California is already facing critical shortages across our health care workforce – including physicians. Keeping DACA in place will ensure that thousands of health care workers who are also Dreamers will be able to continue protecting and caring for California patients.”
DACA allows people who were brought to the United States as young children but who are not citizens to continue to live and work in the country without fear of deportation. If the program were repealed, it would impact tens of thousands of American health care workers who depend on DACA for their authorization to work in the United States, and hundreds of physicians, residents and medical students.
Rescinding the DACA program would have delivered a severe blow to the nation’s health care workforce and exacerbated health care provider shortages, particularly for rural and other 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.
The brief, which was filed in October 2019, was also prescient about the coming health care emergency, and the importance of having a health care workforce to meet the coming challenge.
“The risk of a pandemic also continues to grow, since infectious diseases can spread around the globe in a matter of days due to increased urbanization and international travel. These conditions pose a threat to America’s health security—its preparedness for and ability to withstand incidents with public-health consequences,” the brief said. “To ensure health security, the country needs a robust health workforce. Rescinding DACA, however, would deprive the public of domestically educated, well-trained, and otherwise qualified health care professionals who have been provided education in reliance on their ability to continue to work in the United States as health care professionals.”
By protecting DACA and its recipients, we help preserve and expand health care access across the country, and empower a new generation of talented, health care professionals.”