foreign born

Fact: American health care depends on foreign-born-and-trained professionals

The misinformation about legal immigration peddled by the Trump administration is going to get up close and personal for many of us rather quickly. Unfortunately, Trump and the anti-immigrant faction in the White House, led by Stephen Miller and the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has prevailed in their nativist project to grant fewer visas and approve fewer numbers of refugees. These mostly under-the-radar measures ultimately will trickle down to our health care system’s ability to provide adequate staffing and timely access to medical care.

We know that the Trump administration is, to put it mildly, fact challenged. But no matter what Trump and his merry band of alternate-reality enablers claim, objective facts about immigrants and their essential role in keeping the American health care system staffed is right before our eyes. You don’t have to go looking online, or search for the data, or Google the facts. Just take a moment to look around your local hospital, your local doctors’ offices, or your local walk-in clinics, dental offices, or urgent-care facilities. You’ll find foreign-born and educated doctors, surgeons, technicians, dentists and dental assistants, nurses, nurses’ assistants, and home health aids from across the globe who are laboring on the frontlines of delivering quality care across the country.


The numbers belie the claims that foreign-born workers, particularly in the health care industry, are taking away jobs from Americans.

  • Foreign-born and foreign-educated health care professionals have actually become an essential part of America’s health care delivery system, particularly in smaller cities, rural areas, and underserved low-income communities shunned by American-educated health care workers chasing the highest wages in specialty practices in urban centers.

In a letter written to the Department of Homeland Security in 2017—during the time when the fever of executive orders banning individuals from Muslim countries was at its highest—the American Medical Association sounded the alarm about the negative impacts to America’s health care system of limiting or curtailing immigration numbers.

“To date, one our of every four physicians practicing in the United States is an international medical graduate. . . .They are more likely to practice in underserved and poor communities, and to fill training positions in primary care and other specialties that face significant workforce shortages [editor’s emphasis].”

  • Internationally trained health care workers’ role in U.S. health care has steadily grown over recent decades. The foreign-born share of health care workers jumped as high as 30 percent in the 1990s, up from 5 percent in the 1960s, according to a 2014 study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Studies have found that the health care industry now has the largest percentage of foreign-born and foreign-trained workers of any industry in the country – beating out even the tech industry.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2006 and 2010, the number of foreign-born health care workers increased from 1.5 million to 1.8 million. Those numbers are staggering and should be setting off alarm bells for what might happen to the health care industry and Americans’ health if the Trump/Miller immigration model prevails.
  • More than one-quarter of physicians and surgeons, or 27%, were born outside the U.S. and more than one out of every five, or 22%, of individuals working in support jobs like nursing, psychiatric, home health, and janitorial services also are foreign born.

Facts are facts. Contrary to Trump and his administration’s claims that the U.S. would be better off with fewer legal immigrants, in the health care sector the reality is that Americans’ access to medical care depends on immigrants.