Over the past few days, our inboxes have been flooded with letters from doctors and medical researchers whose lives have been shaken up by President Donald Trump’s executive order, which, among other things, restricts immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
We’ve heard from foreign-born health care workers who are trapped inside the United States, and from those who can’t enter, despite having jobs, research positions, and US visas or green cards. It’s gut-wrenching.
But the chaos unleashed by the executive order also reveals a little-appreciated fact about our health care system: We’re heavily reliant on foreigners. They’re our doctors, nurses, and home care aides, and they often work in the remote places where American-born doctors don’t want to go.
In many ways, the health system is already stretched too thin, with scarcely enough people spread evenly across the country to do many difficult jobs. And a letter from the American Medical Association to the Secretary of Homeland Security today spelled out how Trump’s immigration policy could make this worse by “creating unintended consequences.”
Indeed, it’s now clear that health care is going to suffer as a result of the immigration ban, particularly if the current restrictions are broadened to include more countries or different types of visas, asis expected.
Immigrants make up 22 percent of the health workforce and 30 percent of doctors and surgeons in the US
The health care workforce in the US is a lot more international than you might think. Health care currently has the largest proportion of foreign-born and foreign-trained workers of any industry in the country.
According to 2015 data from the Migration Policy Institute, the medical profession is particularly reliant on immigrant doctors. Of the active physicians and surgeons here, 30 percent are immigrants.
By Julia Belluz and Sarah Frostenson for VOX
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