By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

[UPDATE Tuesday, July 14, 3:52 p.m. ET: After this article was published earlier today, the Trump administration announced a few hours later that it will not follow through on its visa proposal.] 

Close to three dozen healthcare organizations are urging the the Trump administration to reconsider its latest position on immigrant students.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, U.S. schools have shifted to online learning. With no end in sight to the pandemic, online learning appears likely to continue into the new school term this fall, although various elected officials are pushing for a return to in-person learning.

On July 6, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement raised the stakes when it announced a change to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that will require international students taking classes online to switch to in-person classes. Otherwise, these students may have to leave the country or face deportation. On top of doubts about the safety of in-person learning, this decision arrives at a time when the healthcare industry already faces worker shortages.

Thus, in a July 8 letter sent to the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security, various healthcare advocacy groups underscored that “H-1B physicians and their dependent family members’ entry into the U.S. is in the national interest of the country.”

“Every physician is mission critical, especially now when we are seeing COVID-19 cases spike across the country,” the groups wrote. “We urge you to clarify that all healthcare professionals, such as medical residents and fellows, biomedical researchers, and those working in non-clinical settings — not only those who are involved in COVID-19 research and practice — are critical to our national interest, and therefore exempt from the proclamation.”

Calling the administration’s decision “ill advised,” the American Medical Association, a signee of the July 8 letter, argued now is the time to support every medical student, regardless of their country of origin, “with as many options as possible to successfully obtain their education.”

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), another July 8 letter signee, noted international medical graduates represent one-quarter of U.S. physicians. Further, 21 million Americans live in places where foreign-trained physicians represent at least 50% of all available physicians.

“The world’s brightest minds have long sought opportunities at leading institutions throughout the United States. Policies of this nature ignore the collaborative global nature of today’s workforce and will drive talented individuals away from the United States while limiting opportunities for our country’s leadership and innovation,” ACEP wrote in a statement. “The entry of every qualified medical student is in America’s best interest, especially during the pandemic, when physicians are needed in every specialty now more than ever.”

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