Supreme Court decision keeps DACA recipients in limbo

The Supreme Court’s refusal to issue an expedited ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program spells continued uncertainty for undocumented immigrants. The lack of clarity around the issue has raised serious concerns about unintended consequences throughout the healthcare industry.

DACA allows 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. The Trump administration has told Congress to come up with a permanent fix before current recipients lose their protected status in March.

Since no appeals court has yet ruled on the lower court decision barring the administration from discontinuing DACA, legal experts expected the Supreme Court would refuse to issue a ruling, reports the New York Times.

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However, in the near term, the ruling continues to shield DACA recipients from deportation and allows them to continue to work.

That offers temporary relief to healthcare organizations worried about the effect repealing DACA could have both on employees and on medical students with protected status. A consortium of 60 healthcare organizations, including the American Medical Association, sent a letter to Congress in December urging lawmakers to ensure continued protection for DACA recipients.

Though the Supreme Court ruling maintains protections for DACA recipients in the short term, whether lawmakers feel more or less pressure to come to a consensus remains unclear. At the moment, the Washington Post reports, lawmakers continue to try to lay the blame for the lack of progress at the feet of the opposing party.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., told the Post that House Republicans are “actively working toward a solution,” mustering support for a plan currently opposed by Democrats. Meanwhile, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., issued a statement saying, “It’s up to the President and Republican leaders in Congress to take yes for an answer and accept any of the six bipartisan solutions on the table to save these young people.”

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As the issue remains stalled, new evidence has arisen showing fewer international physicians are seeking work in the United States. Though no clear link has been established between this trend and changes in immigration policy, the Association of American Medical Colleges has called on Congress to increase stability for DACA recipients, pointing out that underserved communities are more likely to be served by healthcare workers who could be affected by the program’s end.