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APA Stands with Dreamers, Urges Congress to Reinstate DACA


The recent news of the Trump Administration’s plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is deeply troubling for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the negative impact it would potentially have on our nation’s mental health care. That is why the APA joined 69 other health professional organizations in sending a letter to leaders of both houses of Congress urging them to act swiftly to protect those with DACA status. In addition, the APA sent its own letter stressing the importance of protecting those affected by this decision.

As a physician, it is concerning to consider the trauma that would result from the mass deportations of those who, through no fault of their own, were brought by their parents to a country that they have called home, in many cases for decades. It’s hard to imagine the mental health consequences of being uprooted from the only home one has ever known and sent to an unfamiliar country. Those consequences would, without a doubt, be dire and long-lasting, not just to the “Dreamers” who are forced to leave, but for those they will leave behind.

The negative impact on our nation’s health care system would also be far reaching. International Medical Graduates (IMGs), some of whom currently hold DACA status, are critical to ensuring that our nation has an adequate supply of physicians. These doctors often work in rural and other underserved areas. According to the American Medical Association, 1 in 4 current doctors are IMGs. Further, it is estimated that President Obama’s DACA initiative will add 5,400 physicians to the nation’s health care workforce as those with DACA status continue to complete their medical education.

Stemming this supply of IMGs with DACA status could have potentially crippling effects in areas where the supply of physicians, and particularly psychiatrists, is limited. This in turn would leave many patients without the treatment for mental health and substance use disorders that they need. Terminating the DACA program would also reduce the supply of other health care professionals, such as nurse aides and home health care workers in a time when we need many more, and not less of these professionals to care for the most vulnerable among us.

I am an IMG, and an American citizen, and I find that the decision to end the DACA program runs counter to the principles this nation was founded on. Congress only has six short months to act on the Administration’s decision. I and the APA will continue to urge lawmakers in Congress to reinstate DACA and make its protections permanent. I urge you to contact your own representatives in Congress and ask them to do the same.

What APA is Doing for You

This blog post is part of an occasional series highlighting how APA advocates on your behalf to support the profession of psychiatry and put our interests before key policymakers.


Post by Saul Levin M.D., M.P.A.

Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., FRCP-E, is APA's CEO and Medical Director. Read Dr. Levin's full biography

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