Doctors to Trump: Deporting Illegal Immigrants Would Be Bad for U.S. Health

Millie Dent

The American College of Physicians has a message for Donald Trump and any other presidential contender advocating for mass deportation of illegal immigrants: Any plan to kick out those 12 million people from the country could have severe public health consequences.

On Tuesday, the doctors’ group, which represents 143,000 internists, released a statement urging physicians to take a stand against proposals for mass deportation. 

Related: Vast Majority of Americans Say Illegal Immigrants Should Stay

“Large-scale deportation of undocumented residents would have severe and unacceptable adverse health consequences for many millions of vulnerable people,” Dr. Wayne J. Riley, the groups’ president, said in a statement. “Numerous studies show that deportation itself, as well as the fear of being deported, causes emotional distress, depression, trauma associated with imposed family separations, and distrust of anyone assumed to be associated with federal, state and local government, including physicians and other health care professionals providing care in publicly-funded hospitals and clinics.”

That distrust, in turn, could result in sick people not getting medical attention, and in cases of patients with infectious diseases, it could even lead to a public health emergency with tremendous costs to the to the overall health care system, the group warned.

On the other hand, having illegal immigrants in the country carries health care costs, too. Medicaid pays around $2 billion a year for emergency treatment for illegal immigrants, Kaiser Health News reported in 2013, adding that the total represents less than 1 percent of total Medicaid costs. 

Related: Birthright Citizenship, the New Immigration Scam

Still, the American College of Physicians said doctors have an ethical obligation to advocate for the health interests of all people, without consideration of their residency status.

“Physicians and other health professionals must remind politicians and policymakers that deporting millions of vulnerable people would have adverse health care consequences, not only for the people directly affected and their families, but also for their local communities and for the United States as whole,” Riley said in the statement. “Instead, we need a balanced immigration policy that ensures access to healthcare for all U.S. residents while recognizing that we need appropriate controls over who is admitted.”

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