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Immigrant researchers fear future may bring deportation

Immigrants in Kentucky and across the United States hold many important jobs. Some of them work as medical researchers. In fact, of all the post-doctoral researchers in the life sciences in our nation, 55 percent are immigrants residing in the United States through temporary visas. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration's recent crack-down on immigration and the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has left many of them worrying about how not only their professional future, but also their personal future, will be put into jeopardy.

For example, one researcher came to the United States when she was five-years-old. Originally from Mexico, she didn't even know that her residence in the U.S. was illegal until she began to apply for college financial aid. Nevertheless, she continued her studies and ultimately earned a Ph.D. from the University of California-Merced.

Researchers in the United States from other countries may find that their immigration status places certain limitations on their lives. They may avoid traveling abroad, even if it is job-related, and they may find they are ineligible for certain fellowships or grants due to their lack of citizenship. Moreover, according to one professional, if these researchers must leave the United States, it will burden American researchers who must then take on these extra cases. This could lead to more mistakes in medical research, along with issues regarding safety.

Even those immigrants in the country on a J-1 work visa are finding that it is taking longer to renew or issue these visas than it had been in the past. Some are left wondering if they must leave the United States and move elsewhere, taking their research efforts with them. Even those who have H-1B work visas, which applies to only highly skilled workers, are affected as the Trump administration cracks down on what they claim are instances of fraud and abuse in these programs.

While it remains to be seen how these changes in policy will affect those working in the United States on visas, it would be detrimental for our country to lose those workers who are bringing so much talent to our nation's workplaces, contributing to the growth of scientific advancements and technology. Those who are in the country on a work visa and are concerned about deportation may want to seek the advice of an immigration attorney.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Medical researchers fear immigration obstacles may jeopardize work," Alison Bowen, Sept. 22, 2017

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