June 19, 2020

What the Supreme Court's ruling on DACA means for health care

Daily Briefing

    The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the Trump administration cannot proceed with its plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a move that received praise from several medical groups, including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

    Cheat sheets: Health care legal landmarks

    Details on the ruling

    DACA, which the federal government implemented under former President Barack Obama, protects approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants ages 15 to 36 who entered the country as children from deportation and allows such individuals to work in the United States. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to end the program, arguing that the program's creation was beyond the power of the president.

    But on Thursday, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling blocked those pans, saying the Department of Homeland Security did not give sufficient reasoning to end the program.

    "We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Court's majority opinion. "We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action."

    Roberts said the Trump administration could attempt to redress the procedural issues with its effort to end the program, and try again to dismantle the program with adequate justifications.

    Medical groups praise decision

    According to AAMC, there are almost 200 medical students and residents who are part of the DACA program, with tens of thousands of DACA recipients working at heath care facilities.

    David Skorton, president and CEO of AAMC, said, "DACA has allowed hundreds of thousands of law-abiding, tax-paying individuals to contribute to our country in countless ways. We are particularly appreciative that the ruling will allow almost 30,000 health care workers to continue to provide care to millions of patients across the country as the Covid-19 pandemic continues."

    A large number of DACA recipients in the health care industry have been treating patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, over the past few months—and a majority of them live in Arizona, California, or Texas, where new infection rates are rising, the Los Angeles Times reports.

    "They are our front-line workers helping aid those who are most ill," Ricardo Zamudio Guillen, organizing director for immigrant rights group LUCHA, said. "They're protecting us."

    Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said, "Amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has underscored physician shortages and surging caseloads, DACA recipients have responded to the call by continuing to provide vital patient care. We are pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized that upholding a rollback of the DACA program would have reduced our nation's health care capacity at a time when we can ill afford it" (Japsen, Forbes, 6/18; Bean, Becker's Hospital Review, 6/18; Lee/Martinez, Los Angeles Times, 6/18; Liptak/Shear, New York Times, 6/18).

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