Thursday, 14 September 2017 12:40

Coalition Letter on DACA and Health Care Workforce

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The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader, United States Senate
The Honorable Paul Ryan, Speaker, United States House of Representatives
The Honorable Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader, United States Senate
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, United States House of Representatives

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader Pelosi:

On behalf of the undersigned health professions organizations, we urge you to ensure that all members of the health care workforce with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are able to continue their employment, education, training, and research, with passage of a permanent legislative remedy, such as the bipartisan, bicameral Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615, H.R. 3440). By providing a legal pathway to permanent residency for undocumented Americans brought to the U.S. as children, Congress can help our country produce a diverse and culturally responsive health care workforce to meet the needs of underserved populations, improve cultural awareness, and promote health equity.

With the nation’s population growing and becoming increasingly diverse, it is crucial that the health professions workforce respond to the changing demographics of the country to mitigate racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health disparities. Research demonstrates that diversity in the health professions leads to improvements in access to care for underserved communities, and some studies have shown that patients report greater satisfaction with clinical care when they are treated by providers from the same racial/ethnic background.

Diverse health professions school classes also enhance the ability of the entire workforce to provide culturally competent care to individuals regardless of their background. Higher education research shows that diversity in the classroom produces a more enriched learning environment. Diversity contributes to increased exposure to divergent perspectives, enhances cognitive complexity, promotes civic engagement and facilitates more inclusive teaching and educational content. Diversity in teams has contributed to greater productivity, creativity and innovation that has significant implications for advancing science and health care.

Health professions students who are undocumented encompass a diverse, multiethnic population, who are often bilingual and more likely to practice in underserved communities. For a narrow cohort of undocumented students that meet specific criteria, legislation like the Dream Act of 2017 would grant lawful presence in the U.S., work authorization, and in many cases state identification and driver’s licenses, all of which make attending health professions school and residency training possible.

Our organizations are dedicated to promoting a culturally competent, diverse, and prepared health and biomedical workforce that leads to improved care and health equity. A permanent legislative remedy would help us achieve this goal. We urge congressional leadership to advance legislation before health professionals participating in DACA lose their lawful status and are unable to continue their employment, education, training, and research.

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