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Foreign-trained doctors, nurses seek to reduce barriers to practice

Plus: TPS vigil tonight • new refugee restrictions • phone-banking for Salem

Dr. Skarlleth Cuevas testifies before the Joint Committee on Public Safety as Dr. Laith Almatwari and Dr. Afsaneh Moradi look on.

Dr. Afsaneh Moradi was a family physician in her native Iran, but when she came to the U.S., the best job she could get was as a cashier.

After five years of study to pass her exams, and countless hours of volunteer work, she now works in research and provider education, at Cambridge Health Alliance. But she’s still not doing what she loves most: treating patients.

“It would be a blessing to practice anywhere that allows me to make a difference in my patients’ lives,” Dr. Moradi told the Joint Committee on Public Health on Tuesday. 

Across Massachusetts, more than one in five foreign-trained health professionals like Dr. Moradi – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, dentists, etc. – is jobless or underemployed, held back by costly licensing requirements, language barriers, lack of targeted career services, and other factors.

Not only is this a huge waste of talent, and an economic hardship for the people involved – it also affects public health. More than 7% of Massachusetts residents, including more than 500,000 low-income people, lack adequate access to primary care, dental care, or mental health services. If even half these practitioners returned to their careers, they would significantly narrow that gap.

State Sen. Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester) and Rep. Jack Lewis (D-Ashland) are sponsoring legislation to address this problem. The bills (S.1216 and H.3248) would create a commission to explore ways to reduce licensing and other barriers to professional integration, enabling these providers to provide health services to state residents in areas of greatest need. The commission’s findings would also benefit U.S. citizens who study medicine abroad. This bill is a top priority for MIRA in this legislative session.

Learn more about the bills – and the courageous doctors and nurses advocating for them ►

Tonight: Join a candelight vigil to save TPS!

It’s not in the headlines like the Dreamers’ plight, but for thousands of Haitians, Central Americans and some Africans in Massachusetts, it’s a fast-approaching crisis: by winter, they could all lose their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which has enabled them to live and work legally in the U.S. for many years.

Hondurans and Nicaraguans could be subject to deportation by Jan. 5; Haitians have been told to be ready to leave by Jan. 22; Salvadorans are set to lose their TPS on March 9. The Trump administration, which is expected to announce its plans for TPS within days, could end the anxiety by extending TPS for all these countries, recognizing the enormous challenges they continue to face. But the signs from Washington so far suggest TPS may not be renewed at all.

Tonight from 6 to 8pm, the Massachusetts TPS Committee is holding a candlelight vigil outside the State House to raise awareness of the TPS situation and urge Governor Baker to help keep families together by advocating for the continuation of TPS.

MIRA is organizing a community meeting with members of Congress on Monday to discuss TPS, and we strongly support community efforts to save the program. Join us at the State House to show our solidarity!

A new low in U.S. refugee resettlement policies

The global refugee crisis keeps getting worse. According to the United Nations, there were 65.6 million displaced people at the end of last year, including 22.5 million refugees forced out of their countries by violence, persecution or disasters. The vast majority spend years in camps, hoping to return home or be resettled.

Though the U.S. hosts only a tiny fraction of the world’s refugees, we are by far the largest destination for resettlement. After a rigorous vetting process, 84,994 refugees got a chance to build a new life here last year, including 2,433 in Massachusetts: 363 Haitians, 356 Iraqis, 303 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 254 from Bhutan, and 209 Syrians, and smaller numbers from over three dozen other countries.

But the Trump administration has expressed a strong distaste for refugees, and has tried to minimize resettlements. For fiscal 2017, which ended on Sept. 30, the cap was dropped from the planned 110,000 to just 50,000. For this year, the administration is proposing a record-low cap of 45,000.

Now, as if that were not nasty enough, new restrictions are being imposed on citizens of 11 countries, threatening to keep tens of thousands of people in desperate conditions for many more months or even years. Nine of the affected countries are majority-Muslim; they also happen to be some of the main sources of refugees.

We are disgusted and ashamed, and will continue to speak out against these policies and advocate to reverse them. Help us raise awareness by sharing these links with your networks and contacting members of Congress.

Just 2 weeks left in the Salem Yes on 1 campaign!

Salem is for EveryoneWe hate to sound like a broken record, but Salem needs you!

One of the hottest campaigns in the 2017 election is a ballot measure: Question 1 in Salem. At stake is the city’s “Sanctuary for Peace” ordinance, which the City Council passed earlier this year to reassert its commitment to protecting the rights of all residents, regardless of immigration status.

The ordinance did nothing radical – it just codified existing city and Police Department policies. But after the measure was approved, opponents launched a campaign to overturn it. Now, in order to keep the ordinance on the books, a majority of voters have to support it in a referendum.

This is a local campaign with statewide implications; if anti-immigrant forces manage to win in Salem, we believe they will be emboldened to keep challenging similar local policies all across Massachusetts, and also use the election results as fodder in their efforts to defeat the Safe Communities Act.

MIRA is hosting phone banks in our office next Wednesday and Thursday; sign up here. You can also sign up to canvass by going to the Salem Is for Everyone (Yes on 1) Facebook page.


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