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ACP and 11 Health Care Organizations Offer Joint Recommendations On Executive Order on Immigration

Suggestions will Ensure Physician and Medical Student Entry and Re-entry To U.S., Admission of Refugees with Medical Conditions

(Washington, February 7, 2017) –The American College of Physicians (ACP) today joined with 11 other health care organizations, representing 275,000 physicians, to send a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John F. Kelly reaffirming their joint opposition to the executive order (EO) signed by President Trump on January 27.  The letter offers specific joint recommendations on what the DHS should do to ensure medical students and physicians from the designated countries can enter and re-enter the U.S. to ensure the National Resident Matching Program and patient access to care are not adversely affected, and to prioritize admission of refugees with medical conditions.  

We’re especially concerned that a restrictive entry of physicians and medical students from seven Muslim majority countries will undermine medical education and result in patients losing access to their doctors, noted ACP President Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, MACP.   “We’re pleased that the courts have currently halted implementation of the EO, but the underlying issues of concern about the harm caused by the EO remain.”

Today’s  letter emphasizes: “We are also greatly concerned that the 120-day ban on accepting refugees, and the indefinite ban on  Syrian refugees, will contribute to an ongoing public health crisis for those affected, needlessly subjecting them to violence, injury, illness, deprivation and even death.”

The letter noted four steps that DHS can take immediately to selectively ease travel restrictions that impact medical education, access to health care services, and public health for individuals who otherwise meet the criteria for immigration, including those from the seven countries identified in the executive order:

1. Reinstate the Visa Interview Waiver Program. Suspension of the program “risks creating substantial backlogs in the processing of new and renewal visas for trainees from any foreign country — delays that create substantial problems for residency programs with trainees on visas and that could interfere with the residency match process this year.” [http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmp1701339]

2. Remove restrictions on entering the U.S. for physicians from the seven designated countries that have been approved for J-1 or H-1B visas and students from those countries with F-1 visas who have been accepted to U.S. medical schools.

3. Develop and implement a plan to allow physicians from the seven designated countries to obtain travel visas to travel to the U.S. for medical conferences and other medical and research related engagements.

4. Make it a priority to implement a process to admit refugees, without further delay, who had already been vetted and approved for entry prior to the executive order and who are in need of urgent medical care.

While the above recommendations would help ease some of the immediate damage being done by the EO, the one-dozen signers of the letter noted, “the executive order will still inappropriately bar immigrants and refugees based on discriminatory criteria (religion and country of origin) including family members of physicians and medical students in the U.S.”

Related, ACP distributed statements on the executive order on January 30 and January 31.

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The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States. ACP members include 148,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: David Kinsman, APR (202) 261-4554, dkinsman@acponline.org