Dr. Julia Iafrate came to the United States 13 years ago. Even though she's dedicated her life to treating New York's patients, the federal government doesn't care.
New York continues to battle the ongoing epidemic, with frontline health workers risking their lives every single day in order to treat the state's patients. One doctor who has been at the forefront of the fight, Dr. Julia Iafrate, has dedicated herself to serving the country. While New York's residents may be grateful for her service, the federal government certainly is not. Dr. Iafrate immigrated to the United States from Canada in 2007. Earlier this week, she received some devastating news: her green card application was denied. "I'm putting my life on the line every day to do this, and it's just blowing my mind right now that they are not appreciating it or they don't see the value in what I'm offering to do," she told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Tuesday. "I'm honestly beside myself. It's like a slap in the face."
Dr. Iafrate has been working in the United States for the past 13 years. She is an assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center who specializes in sports medicine. However, she decided to volunteer her services during the outbreak. She just wanted to help as much as she could. The doctor affirmed, "Because I'm a doctor. Because that's what I do, because I know that I can help." The United States federal government, sadly, has been deaf to her commitment and sacrifice. She heard from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that her application for a green card had been turned down several days ago.
"I was blindsided. I was flabbergasted, and so was my immigration lawyer and so was my chair of my department and everyone else involved in this case," Dr. Iafrate shared. "They ask you to be an expert in your field... And I am. I've proven that time and time again. And I was just blown away that at this time, of all times, they don't think it's necessary to have someone like me here." Her case just goes to show that it doesn't matter how much you've given this country - the government refuses to acknowledge your effort and love for its nation. Meanwhile, the USCIS has declined to comment on Dr. Iafrate's rejection letter, stating that they do not comment on individual cases.
As a sports medicine physician, Dr. Julia Iafrate is voluntarily risking her life as a selfless, frontline warrior against Covid-19. Is this not bringing ‘unique value’ to this ‘land of the brave’? We need more heroes like her in this moment of great peril. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/1KhoP1rFAH— Rakesh Ranjan M.D. (@RakeshRanjanMD) May 7, 2020
The agency explained, "USCIS evaluates each petition, application, and request on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet all standards required under applicable laws, regulations, and policies. Agency adjudicators may request further evidence and issue subsequent denials when the petitioner provides insufficient evidence to establish eligibility based on the preponderance of the evidence standard. It is incumbent upon the applicant - not the government - to show that the prospective beneficiary meets the requirements for eligibility under the law."
@thenewDrJ, expert enough to teach all of these experts, but not enough for @USCIS? #LetDrJStay @USCISMediaNorth @MayoClinic @Columbia_Rehab @nyphospital @ChrisCuomo @nytimes https://t.co/T5I7sciwHY pic.twitter.com/1Cxx4XNuz4— Erek Latzka MD, RMSK (@ErekLatzkaMD) May 6, 2020
Dr. Iafrate believes there is nothing she could have done to strengthen her application. "It's heartwrenching. I don't know what to do. I don't know what I could have done better," she said. "I don't know what I could have done any differently." When she first arrived in the United States, the now-doctor completed a residency program at the Mayo Clinic as well as a sports medicine fellowship at the University of Iowa. She's even been a team physician for the USA Ski Team and Columbia University Athletics. She's been working at the Columbia University Medical Center for almost three years now.
“It’s heart-wrenching. I feel helpless,” says Julia Iafrate, a doctor fighting coronavirus in the ICU during the pandemic, who has been denied a green card. “...I’m putting my life on the line every day to do this… I’m honestly beside myself. It’s like a slap in the face.” pic.twitter.com/vKuje4v3GR— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) May 6, 2020
The rejection may be a result of US President Donald Trump's recent order to tighten immigration restrictions. The measure, taken in light of the ongoing pandemic, was intended to secure American jobs. However, immigrant rights activists argue that immigrants are at the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic, and should therefore not be treated as second-class residents of the US. Their work is an imperative part of the country's economy. At present, Dr. Iafrate plans to appeal the government's decision.
A doctor treating Covid patients and risking her life is denied a green card for “not presenting unique value” for the country. This is a dystopian nightmare and I only wish the best for Dr. Julia Iafrate ❤️❤️— Sarah S (@nerdybird2002) May 6, 2020