Medical immigrants are afraid to die from COVID-19, putting families at risk of deportation

Immigrants make up almost a quarter of all licensed doctors in the United States. Their disability or death will lead to the deportation of any dependent members of the family, writes NBC News.

Врачи-иммигранты боятся умереть от COVID-19, подвергнув семьи риску депортации

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After Dr. Parth Mehta moved to the basement in early March, he wrote a farewell letter and got the folder with important information for your family. These actions he took in response to the increase of morbidity and mortality in a pandemic coronavirus: he had to prepare for the undesirable, but increased the probability of death due to exposure to the virus at work.

Folder, which he prepared, contains the credentials to log into his social media accounts, phone numbers of family and friends, as well as information about investments. It also contains detailed information regarding deportation procedures, as in the case of his death his wife and two young children in danger of deportation to India.

“If I get sick and something happens to me, for my family all over,” he said.

Mehta, a therapist working in a hospital one of the approximately 127,000 immigrant doctors in the United States, which accounted for nearly a quarter of all licensed physicians in the country. According to the census, Federal state medical boards of 2018, most of this group came from India, followed by experts from the Caribbean, Pakistan, the Philippines and Mexico.

A doctor like Mehta are in the USA with visa H-1B, which are connected with their employment. If these visa holders for any reason become disabled and cannot work, they and any members of their families living in USA with visa H-4, will be under the threat of deportation. According to immigration attorney Greg Siskind, if the owner of the H-1B visa dies, all family members dependent visa H-4, become undocumented immigrants and immediately subject to expulsion from the country.

The plight of immigrant doctors and their families, mostly formed from the huge amount of delays in issuing visas.

From 2007 to 2018 fiscal year, the majority of applications for H-1B visa was filed by citizens of India — about 2.2 million of the nearly 3.5 million — according to Service, citizenship and immigration USA. And, according to the center of the Cato Institute, the Indian employee is confronted with a required waiting period, on average amounting to 90 years.

The only way to solve this problem is through legislation.

The group “Physicians for access to health care in the United States” (PAHA), is one of the organizations which advocates for legislative action to protect immigrant doctors. In early may, Congress was presented one of the bills supported by the group, a bipartisan measure entitled the “Act on the sustainability of the health workforce”. If adopted, the doctors and nurses will be able to issue 40 000 unused immigrant visas to help America in the fight against COVID-19.

Siskind said that the bill will help a lot of doctors are immigrants, eliminating a large part of the backlog on green cards, but will not solve other problems they encounter.

“It’s about a little joy, but in any case not enough,” said Dr. Sanjeev ALUR, President of PAHA.

He noted that the bill does not protect immigrant medical visa for J-1 exchange on which the majority of immigrant doctors entering the country. According to Alura, J-1 restricts interns work in a particular place, although they were given some flexibility in the fight against the pandemic.

ALUR and Siskind said doctors immigrants were crucial for the shortfall of doctors in the country, which has accumulated over the last two decades. According to Siskind, this problem is most often noticed in rural areas that are typically harder to recruit doctors, than in large cities. According to the Association of American medical colleges, by 2032 in the United States, the shortage is expected to almost 122 000 doctors.

“You can’t snap your fingers and undo the need for international doctors,” said Siskind.

Mehta, who works in a hospital in Peoria, Illinois, said he is concerned about the possibility of becoming disabled or die during a pandemic. This risk has always existed, but it has grown exponentially in recent months, the doctor said.

According to the Centers for control and prevention of diseases and medical staff account for almost 20% of cases COVID-19.

Mehta asks a question about why immigrant doctors are praised as heroes and warriors, veterans, yet they are physically capable of performing their duties, but they lose all value, if you become incapacitated.

“It’s pretty strange that you feel is necessary, when we are talking about saving lives, you become irrelevant when it comes to immigration purposes, and your family faces the risk of deportation if you are going to die,” said Mehta.

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