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Immigrant doctors prepare for family's deportation if they die of coronavirus

Immigrant doctors prepare for family's deportation if they die of coronavirus
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Immigrant doctors practicing in the United States are bracing for their family's deportation, should the doctors die from coronavirus.

“If I get sick and if something happens to me, it’s basically over for my family,” Parth Mehta, a hospitalist in Peoria, Ill., told NBC Asian America

He added, “It’s kind of weird that we are considered essential when it comes to saving lives, but we are considered nonessential when it comes to immigration purposes, and your family faces the risk of deportation if you die."

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There are roughly 127,000 immigrant physicians serving in the United States, making up nearly a quarter of all licensed physicians in the country.

The majority of the doctors come from India, the Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan and the Caribbean, according to the 2018 Federation of State Medical Boards census. However, if a physician is working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and something happens to them, their families run the risk of being deported.

All immigrant physicians like Mehta are authorized to work in the U.S. through H-1B visas. These visas are tied to their employment, so if something happens and they become disabled or unable to work, their families, who are in the country on H-4 dependent visas, become subject to deportation.

Similarly, if the doctors were to die, their families would immediately become lose their legal immigration status and subject to deportation.

“You have doctors that are basically sitting for 20 years in this precarious situation of being on a temporary visa that, should something happen so that the person can’t continue on the temporary visa, their family is potentially subject to deportation,” Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer who specializes in physician immigration cases, told the network.

“It’s a completely legitimate concern that these doctors have.”

A bipartisan bill called the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act was introduced last month in Congress that would offer more visas for immigrant nurses and physicians. If signed into law, the bill would reallocate 40,000 unused immigrant visas to doctors and nurses in an effort to combat COVID-19.