CAFP Statement on Threat to DACA
President Trump has threatened to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months unless Congress can find a legislative solution. DACA provides deportation protection to roughly 800,000 young undocumented people who entered the country as children. One in four of them live in California. Under DACA, they have the right to work legally in the United States and must meet several requirements: they must have been 30 or younger in 2012; been brought to the U.S. before age 16; currently be in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces; and not have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or pose a threat to national security or public safety. The application cost is nearly $500 and permits must be renewed every two years. DACA does not give beneficiaries legal U.S. residency; they are simply given a reprieve from deportation while being allowed to work legally.
“These young people and children are our neighbors, friends, classmates and patients. They are outstanding members of our communities, actively supporting and contributing to our lives, including in the medical arena,” said CAFP president Michelle Quiogue, MD. “DACA has provided certainty and stability to their lives; the threat to end DACA hangs over their heads now, potentially deterring many from obtaining needed health services and, in all likelihood, creating stress, anxiety, depression and other conditions that may contribute to ill health,” she added.
Some DACA participants and those eligible for the program are medical students and residents in California. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 34 students with DACA status matriculated to U.S. medical schools in 2016 and about 70 students with DACA status were enrolled last year. Although the number of medical students with DACA status is relatively small, the U.S. health care system can ill afford to lose any source of future physicians. Congress’s previous attempts at a legislative solution (2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011) all failed. If Congress fails to act again, some DACA participants could face deportation as early as March.
DACA primary care physician residents are well-poised to deliver high quality, culturally competent care to California’s population, which is 40 percent Latino compared to a physician population that is only five percent Latino. CAFP also is a strong supporter of the University of California Los Angeles’s International Medical Graduate program, which helps non-citizen physicians qualify for medical residencies by preparing them for the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. They must compete for residency spots and, upon graduation, work in medically underserved areas for a minimum of two years.
CAFP urges Congress to take quick action to renew the DACA program.
Photo by Andrew Nicla / Cronkite News