As Supreme Court considers fate of 'dreamers,' medical groups say DACA protects healthcare workforce

As the Supreme Court gets ready to decide the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, leading medical organizations say rescinding it will hurt the healthcare workforce and patients.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) led 32 other medical organizations in submitting an amicus brief (PDF) to the Supreme Court urging the justices to preserve the DACA program.

“We’ve done so because we do not believe the administration considered the impact that rescission of DACA would have on patients and the health professionals who care for them,” the AAMC said in a statement.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments next Tuesday on the validity of President Donald Trump’s decision to terminate the program. DACA allows hundreds of thousands of young people, often referred to as "dreamers," who were brought to the U.S. by their parents without proper documentation to stay and work here.

President Barack Obama created the program through executive action in 2012, and President Donald Trump tried to end the program in 2017. DACA shields these undocumented immigrants from deportation.

RELATED: Future of 'dreamer' doctors in jeopardy as Trump rescinds DACA status; medical community 'dismayed' by the decision

The AAMC, which represents the country’s medical schools, teaching hospitals and academic societies, said there are an estimated 27,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals whose DACA status allows them to work in the U.S. and care for patients.

DACA is also enabling nearly 200 current medical students and medical residents to pursue careers in medicine, the AAMC said.

“Excluding these physicians and trainees from the workforce would not only prohibit them from practicing medicine, but also deprive a huge number of Americans of access to quality healthcare. In the face of a projected shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2032, every single U.S.-educated and -credentialed health professional—DACA or otherwise—is a precious asset to the health of our nation,” AAMC said.

Other groups signing on to that amicus brief supporting DACA included the American Medical Association, America’s Essential Hospitals, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Healthcare Executives and the American College of Physicians.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, David Skorton, M.D., AAMC’s president and CEO, made the case that rescinding DACA will negatively impact the country's healthcare system.

A separate amicus brief (PDF) was filed by pediatricians, children’s advocates and parents asking the Supreme Court justices to consider that if parents lose DACA protection, some 250,000 U.S. children could be harmed.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) supported the development of this brief, working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and dozens of children’s advocacy organizations, medical professionals and child development experts.

Rescinding DACA would have multi-generational health consequences as it not only impacts DACA recipients but their children, said Kyle Yasuda, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“When children live in fear of their family being separated, it can have detrimental effects on their health and development, both in the short- and long-term. As pediatricians, we know children fare best when they can grow up in supportive families and thrive,” he said.