EDITORIAL: Here to help: Ending DACA would remove thousands of health workers

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has drawn the attention of many Americans, including government officials, away from many issues. One topic that might have taken a backseat is President Trump’s continued efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Admissions program, which protects foreignborn Americans who were brought to this country when they were children.

But it remains an important issue, perhaps even more important under these conditions.

The Supreme Court will decide whether Trump can end the program. If he does we will lose about 27,000 health care workers and another 200 medical students. Such a loss would severely injure our health care industry under any circumstances, given the chronic U.S. shortage of medical professionals, but that shortage would be made even more critical during the current viral pandemic.

Advocates for allowing DACA to continue are pressing that argument, and the high court this week agreed to consider it.

We hope a majority of justices recognize that those who qualify for DACA committed no crime themselves, and that punishing them for any crimes their parents might have committed is an injustice.

President Barack Obama initiated DACA in 2012 to protect from deportation people who have lived here since infancy. They deserve that protection, as they did not come of their own accord but know no other homeland. They were raised here, educated here and many already are contributing to our nation’s continued progress by working, paying taxes and raising their own families as valuable members of American society, and their home communities.

DACA allows these foreign nationals to apply for renewable two-year visas that allow them to live, go to school and work here until their permanent status is decided.

Some 700,000 U.S. residents who were brought here without the proper paperwork will be affected by the decision.

In light of the pandemic, a legal services organization at Yale Law School and the National Immigration Law Center last month asked the Supreme Court to consider their argument that health care providers “on the front lines of our nation’s fight against COVID19 rely significantly upon DACA recipients to perform essential work. … Termination of DACA during this national emergency would be catastrophic.”

Even before the virus became a problem in the United States, the Association of American Medical Colleges warned in October that the risk of a pandemic highlighted the importance of keeping DACA recipients in order to maintain a “robust health workforce.”

As reported this week in USA Today, the group argued that our nation’s health security hangs is at risk, and losing DACA workers would threaten “its preparedness for and ability to withstand incidents with public health consequences.”

There are countless reasons why DACA recipients deserve their own path to legal status, if not outright citizenship. Our need to keep them to mitigate our current health fragility is only the latest. The court should recognize this, and decide the issue in their favor.