ACP, AAFP express concerns on Trump’s executive order on immigration
The ACP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and other medical associations recently released comprehensive statements announcing serious concerns about the effects that President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on immigration will have on medical education, access to health care services, public health and families.
“Many of America’s physicians and students earn their medical degrees overseas and complete residency training in the United States, where they then continue to practice medicine successfully,” John Meigs, Jr, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), said in a statement. “Discrimination based on religion and targeted at physicians and medical students, among many others, is simply un-American. These additional primary care physicians are very important to our health care workforce and provide much needed care to all segments of society, from rural to urban to underserved; infants to children, adults and the elderly.”
Denying patient care based on a physician’s religion, geographic location, or nation of origin is unacceptable, he added.
The ban, which restricts entry of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries to the United States on any visa category, affects 260 current applicants among 35,000 individuals seeking residencies and fellowships, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
“Restricting entry of such persons not only disrupts their training and potentially separates them from family members, it also will result in many thousands of patients losing access to their physician,” Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, MACP, president of ACP, said in the statement.
Moreover, due to Trump’s executive order, many medical students and physicians who are either being trained or delivering direct patient care in the United States, as well as international medical graduates, could be denied entry or reentry into the United States, which could affect thousands of people, according to the ACP.
“The United States is facing a serious shortage of physicians,” Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of AAMC, stated in a press release. “International graduates play an important role in U.S. health care, representing roughly 25% of the workforce. Current immigration pathways — including student, exchange-visitor, and employment visas — provide a balanced solution that improves health care access across the country.”
The ban also prohibits all Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely, thus contributing to a public health crisis for those affected, noted the ACP.
According to the Physicians for Human Rights, “this means the U.S. is effectively shutting out a group of people who are suffering from one of the worst humanitarian and public-health crises in recent memory. Syrians are living in medieval conditions, contracting diseases that had been long ago eliminated by vaccination, such as polio. Even highly treatable conditions like diabetes go unchecked.”
President Trump suggested during his presidential campaign that he planned to revoke President Obama’s 2012 executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects individuals, or “Dreamers,” who were born outside of the United States and brought illegally to the country at a young age, acknowledged the ACP. The College urges the Trump administration to preserve DACA until there is a permanent resolution that has been approved by Congress.
“The executive order and the potential deportation of ‘Dreamers’ have grave implications for medical education, access to health care services, public health, families and freedom to worship,” Damle said in the release. “It is essential that Congress, the courts and the administration re-think the current policies and replace them with non-discriminatory policies that support families, public health, and medical education while ensuring that persons entering the U.S. are thoroughly vetted before being granted visas.”
The AAFP emphasized that the ability to practice medicine in the United States has been earned by many hardworking international physicians and medical students. “Locking them out of the country by imposing arbitrary discrimination via travel restrictions is at least uninformed, and at most, a threat to the nation’s ability to ensure a physician workforce that meets patients’ needs,” the AAFP continued.
These executive orders by President Trump must be challenged by those inside, as well as outside the administration, according to the Physicians for Human Rights.
“This week is a reminder that vigilance is crucial, and human rights defenders will not stand down,” Donna McKay, MS, executive director of the Physicians for Human Rights, said in a release. “The Trump Administration, in its flurry of first-week activity, would like us to be so distracted that we lose sight of what’s important: Our shared humanity.” – by Alaina Tedesco
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