In the middle of an immigration debate, healthcare organizations face real-world impact

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Healthcare is being impacted as the political fight goes on over immigration issues. (Wittayayut/iStock/Getty Images)

A Michigan doctor, a green card holder who has been in the U.S. for 40 years, was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers last week.

That's just one way that the fallout over immigration issues has impacted the healthcare industry.

Uncertainly over the fate of protections for young immigrants, known as dreamers, who were brought to the country by their parents without proper documentation, has left many healthcare workers wondering about their future.

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A promise from Republican leaders to address the fate of people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is part of an agreement to end a government shutdown.

But as Congress and the White House battle over protections for so-called dreamers and border security measures last week, Lukasz Niec, M.D., a doctor at Bronson HealthCare, was picked up at his home in Kalamazoo, according to Newsweek. He immigrated from Poland to the U.S. with his parents when he was a three-year-old child and holds a green card that allows him to live and work in the country.

News reports say Niec is being held at the Calhoun County Jail and his family believes he is being detained because of a misdemeanor arrest for property damage from 1992.

Other healthcare workers worry about their future. “My life is at the mercy of the White House," Hector Mejia, a lab assistant at Houston Methodist Hospital, who came to the U.S. as a child from El Salvador, told the Houston Chronicle.

He and others stand to lose their temporary work permits and protection if Congress doesn't agree on what to do with some 800,000 DACA-covered individuals by March, when President Donald Trump has said the Barack Obama-era program would end. Texas has more than 124,300 DACA enrollees and in Houston many work at Houston Methodist Hospital, which has 57 dreamers working in positions from lab technicians to nurses and pharmacists, the newspaper said.

And deportation fears aren’t just having an impact on those people who entered the U.S. illegally. The number of legal immigrants from Latin American countries who access public health services and enroll in federally subsidized health insurance plans has dropped substantially since Trump took office, according to an Associated Press report. Many of them fear their information could be used to identify relatives living in the U.S. illegally, health advocates across the country told the news services.

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