Why We Need DACA During Corona
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) is currently spreading through the country like wildfire: hundreds of thousands of cases have already been diagnosed, and there have already been more than 2,000 coronavirus-related deaths, with between 100,000 and 200,000 predicted. This has already affected every aspect of life in America, from tanking the stock market to creating panic in hospitals and on the street. The epicenter of this crisis is New York City, where healthcare workers are struggling with inadequate supplies and a fear has spread.
The last thing our nation’s healthcare system needs in the cities most affected by the coronavirus is a massive loss of healthcare workers, however, the pending repeal of DACA may cause just that.
Healthcare workers in NYC are working around the clock, putting in longer hours under exhausting conditions, and many are falling ill and being taken off of the front lines while they recover. Desperate for additional resources, makeshift hospitals have been set up in Central Park and the Javits Center, and a Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, has been brought to NYC to try to handle the shortfall of medical staff and supplies.
This shortfall of staff has been bad enough that many doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and others have come out of retirement and other careers to volunteer to help. Those who do come into a rough situation where a lack of protective equipment is a serious issue, and likely contributed to the death of the first healthcare worker, Kious Kelly, to Covid-19.
While sickness, exhaustion, lack of protective equipment and other factors are affecting the abilities of healthcare workers, there’s one last issue that could take thousands of healthcare workers out of the fight: the repeal of DACA.
The DACA program offered millions of dreamers (young undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children) a reprieve from deportation and opportunity to apply for working papers. This has allowed many to pursue a dream of becoming involved in the healthcare business, be it as a doctor, nurse or other profession within the industry. Currently, the healthcare industry has an estimated 27,000 workers who are only able to provide desperately-needed medical services due to their DACA status.
With New York having the most DACA recipients of any state in the US, many of these healthcare service providers are toiling in NYC’s hospitals at a pace that few can appreciate, on the front lines at the epicenter of a pandemic: their work is not only good for a struggling NYC community, but it is necessary to get our country back to where it was before the virus brought our economy to a low that it had not seen even during the 2008 recession.
Currently, DACA is before a conservative Supreme Court with two Trump appointees with dim prospects; it is expected that DACA will be declared unconstitutional any time between now and June. Should the Supreme Court allow DACA to be repealed, this would throw 27,000 healthcare workers out of their industry and back into a shadow economy with few regulations where these former doctors, nurses, pharmacists and technicians would be forced to scramble for whatever work they could find.
Not only would this take them out of the fight against the pandemic, but it would also leave them more vulnerable to becoming sick in shady, unregulated jobs that they would be forced to work to provide for themselves and their families. Once sick, like anyone with coronavirus, they could spread this further throughout their community, especially as most undocumented immigrants do not have primary care physicians and would be left with no healthcare options until they are sick enough to go to the ER.
The repeal of DACA would be yet another counterproductive act by an Administration that downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus at every turn, with Trump recently claiming that everything would be fine by Easter (April 12th). This lack of vision and leadership while the country is going through it’s most serious crisis in decades (or longer) is just quintessential Trump: a man in over his head who completely ignores even the most obvious realities.
The bottom line is that, like many of Trump’s ill-informed decisions on immigration policy, the repeal of DACA would turn 27,000 people from a healthcare asset to a liability through no fault of their own, making this yet another disastrous decision from an Administration that cares more about optics at campaign rallies for its base than policy outcomes.
This coronavirus crisis is expected to last after the Supreme Court will render a decision, which would be in June the latest. The loss of tens of thousands of hardworking immigrants from the healthcare sector at a time when our nation is scrambling to gather every resource it can to fight this pandemic will be a disaster that was completely avoidable, and is entirely the fault of the Trump Administration.