We as Americans pride ourselves on our core values of fairness and compassion and want our country to be a worldwide beacon for human rights, religious freedom, innovation and opportunity.
That is why the presidential executive orders banning refugees and immigrants from seven countries are so deeply unsettling. They target not only the most vulnerable in the world, but also some of the best and brightest, especially in the healthcare field.
The U.S. relies heavily on foreign-born doctors, nurses, medical re-searchers and other healthcare workers, including those from the seven Muslim-majority countries under the ban. In fact, the healthcare industry has the largest percentage of foreign-born workers of any sector in the country.
There are more than 2 million foreign-born healthcare workers in the U.S., including 200,000 nurses and 25% of all doctors. From the countries under the ban, 260 physicians have applied for medical residencies this year alone and could treat around 700,000 patients in 2017. Immigrants also work as nurse assistants, radiology technicians, lab scientists, physical therapists and many other essential positions in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, home-care agencies and pharmacies.
Because of our aging population and the prevalence of chronic disease, we are already facing a severe shortage of doctors and other healthcare professionals, and these immigration restrictions will make it worse. Many foreign-born doctors provide much-needed primary care and practice in rural areas and underserved communities.
At the same time that these healthcare professionals are caring for American patients, they are being cruelly separated from their own families overseas. During the brief time the restrictions were being enforced, pending judicial review, healthcare professionals in the U.S. who are from the banned countries were reluctant to travel for fear of being stranded, and their loved ones had serious difficulties visiting them. In one image widely circulated on social media, a resident physician held a sign that said, “I care for your mom but I can't visit mine.” Causing this kind of suffering, heartache and separation of families is not what America is about.