Changes in Immigration Policy May Leave San Joaquin Valley Residents with Reduced Healthcare Access

Changes in Immigration Policy May Leave San Joaquin Valley Residents with Reduced Healthcare Access

Residents of the San Joaquin Valley have high rates of asthma and obesity due to systemic inequalities, including pollution and poverty. Yet despite having a higher need for healthcare, the valley has 22 percent fewer primary care physicians than the state’s average. Even fewer doctors accept Medi-Cal and Affordable Care Act plans, leading to a shortage of available medical care in the region. Stepping up to fill in the gap are many doctors who were born and educated outside the US. Still, immigration law changes proposed by the Trump administration could make it more difficult for valley residents to access healthcare.

About 27 percent of doctors in California are International Medical Graduates, or IMGs, like Dr. Olga Meave, who plans to stay in the San Joaquin Valley after completing her residency. In the valley, nearly 50 percent of physicians are IMGs, providing much-needed healthcare for the area. Changes in the H-1B program could put that healthcare access at risk.

Doctors, regardless of training, are required to complete a medical residency in the US in order to practice here, and most do so with a J-1 immigration visa. After completing residency, they usually apply for an H-1B visa and, like Dr. Meave, begin working toward permanent residency and citizenship.

In April 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to review the H-1B program. The Trump administration previously revoked the expedited processing of H-1B visa applications, causing some IMGs to leave the country because their applications couldn’t be processed quickly enough.

Deepak Ahluwalia, a Fresno immigration attorney, told KVPR that these changes would further limit access to healthcare for San Joaquin Valley residents, who already have 35 percent fewer physicians than recommended. “If we specifically talk about doctors, that policy won’t work because, as we’ve discussed, they’re having a problem hiring doctors here or finding doctors here.”

He notes that policy changes were hastily revoked after the lack of IMGs caused difficulty in the healthcare sector. “It didn’t work out too well this time, and they reinstated it after realizing the huge blunder,” he says. “One can only hope that any other policies they think of in the future, they’re actually going to consult with doctors, they’re going to consult with areas that are designated by the government to be underserved.”

Get Help With Your H-1B Visa or Other Immigration Concerns Now

Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law and its lead attorney Deepak Ahluwalia are immigration law experts who can assist you or a loved one with your immigration application. Mr. Ahluwalia has been interviewed as a trusted source by the BBC, CNN, The Guardian, KVPR, and numerous other news organizations about the dynamic landscape of immigration law. In addition, he has also worked to help hundreds of thousands of individuals proceed through the complicated US immigration system.

If you are having difficulties securing an H-1B or another type of visa or continuing on the path toward citizenship, don’t try to go it alone. An experienced immigration attorney can help you overcome obstacles, avoid difficulties with incorrectly filed paperwork, and fight for your rights in an increasingly complex immigration process. Please contact us today for a free, confidential consultation about your immigration questions and concerns.