Immigrants ‘helped America achieve its greatness,’ says daughter of two foreign-born physicians

Doctors posing for the camera
With a shortage of doctors, the country should be welcoming foreign born physicians such as her parents, says one daughter. (American College of Emergency Physicians)

Growing up in rural Ashtabula County in Ohio, Yasmin Sokkar Harker says her parents and a slew of other foreign doctors were the mainstay in providing healthcare to residents there, delivering babies, performing surgeries and dispensing medications.

So she froze and replayed over and over again a video last summer in which a woman, who worked in the medical field, said America "stopped being great" about 30 years ago when the doctors from foreign countries started coming here, wrote Harker in a narrative in Health Affairs.

Harker's parents were from the Philippines and Egypt, and they met as residents in a Cleveland hospital in the early 1970s. When she was three-years-old, they moved to a small town about 50 miles from Cleveland, where her parents both practiced for more than 30 years.

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Now, given the current political climate, Harker, a professor and law librarian at the City University of New York School of Law in New York City, asks whether those immigrant doctors who have helped fill physician shortages in the U.S. for years, including many rural areas where they alone provide healthcare, are still welcome.

She cited a Syrian doctor who, as a result of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, left the U.S. to work in Canada. And an Iraqi doctor who worked in rural Georgia for several years started to face harassment, so he left for California.

Then there are residency programs reluctant to match candidates from banned countries because of uncertainty about whether they will be allowed into the country. Immigration policies that prevent doctors and medical students from coming to the U.S. have been denounced by many medical organizations as detrimental to the healthcare industry, which already faces a looming shortage of physicians.

"Immigrant doctors have never been a sign that America stopped being great. From the 1970s through the present, they have helped America achieve its greatness,” Harker wrote. While she can’t predict what will happen next with U.S. immigration laws, the country should oppose nativist and anti-immigrant laws in the future, she said.

For now, she can breathe a little easier. A judge ruled Tuesday that healthcare workers and students already covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—or DACA—can continue their employment, education, training and research in the U.S.

DACA is program that protects young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation. Judge William Alsup ruled that the Trump administration must continue to process DACA renewal applications, CNN reported. However, the ruling is limited and doesn't cover applications for those who have never before received DACA protections.