In a letter sent Tuesday to members of Congress, the American Medical Association voiced support for the BRIDGE Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at providing protection to immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. It cast such protections as helping to shore up the physician workforce, which faces a looming shortage over the coming decades.
The legislation, if enacted, would allow undocumented immigrants who meet DACA requirements to apply for protection from deportation and for work authorization for three years. Immigrants already protected under DACA would be able to apply for the same protections after their status expires.
“By providing legal status to such individuals for three years, this legislation would provide important protection and stability until a permanent solution on lawful immigration status for DACA recipients is implemented,” wrote Dr. James Madara, CEO of the AMA, in the letter.
The letter highlighted the role that individuals with DACA status play in medical education in the U.S. and in the healthcare system overall. In 2016, 70 students with DACA status enrolled in medical schools. Over the coming decades, those students could eventually add 5,400 doctors to the lagging physician workforce in the U.S.
The nation is projected to face a shortage of physicians ranging from 61,700 to 94,700 over the next decade, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported in April.
“These individuals help contribute to a diverse and culturally responsive physician workforce, which in turn helps benefit not only traditionally underserved patients, but all patients as well,” the letter said. “DACA recipients should be able to continue to study and work without fear of being deported.”
The AMA sent the letter to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who sponsored the bill in the Senate, and to House sponsors Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. The bill died in a previous session of Congress but was re-introduced in January.