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Watchdog says doctors with criminal histories are screening immigrants
- Dozens of doctors tasked by the federal government with screening immigrants have serious criminal records or histories of abusing patients, a federal watchdog says.
- One of the doctors even has a felony conviction for attempting to hire a hit man to kill a "dissatisfied patient," and another doctor has a long history of "sexual misconduct and exploiting female patients."
- At least 132 of the 5,500 doctors charged with screening the immigrants could "pose a health or safety risk," the watchdog report said.
- The US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, which vets the doctors, has said it intends to address the concerns raised by the inspector general.
The federal government has tasked dozens of doctors with handling immigrants' medical screenings despite having serious criminal records or histories of abusing patients, according to a federal watchdog.
The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general issued a report on September 21 accusing the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency of failing to properly vet the doctors they designate "civil surgeons."
Civil surgeons are charged with screening all immigrants applying for green cards and ensuring they've received required vaccinations and are clear of communicable diseases.
The inspector general's report detailed a number of troubling hires — perhaps the most egregious example being a Georgia doctor who was designated a civil surgeon even though he received a felony conviction for hiring a hit man to kill a "dissatisfied patient."
Though state medical boards in in Texas, California, and Pennsylvania revoked that doctor's license, the Georgia Medical Board allowed him to continue practicing several years afterward, the watchdog's report said.
A person holds an American flag as they participate in a ceremony to become an American citizen during a U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services naturalization ceremony at the Miami Field Office on August 17, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Getty Images/Joe Raedle "USCIS is not properly vetting the physicians it designates to conduct required medical examinations of these foreign nationals," the report said. "Of USCIS' 5,569 active civil surgeons, 132 could pose a health or safety risk to foreign nationals seeking to adjust their status."
Eleven of those 132 doctors had committed offenses so egregious they were barred from participating in federal health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, according to the report.
One doctor, for instance, was designated a civil surgeon despite his history of "professional sexual misconduct and exploitation of female patients from a position of power, authority, and trust," the report said. The doctor was barred from being alone with female patients while conducting physical examinations, and his license was restricted by the Texas Medical Board.
Yet another doctor was disciplined by the California Medical Board for "numerous offenses" including allowing her staff to dilute vaccines, and falsifying medical records, according to the report.
In another sample of 135 civil surgeons, USCIS could not even prove the doctors met the proper qualifications to be civil surgeons. The report said, 19 of those doctors hadn't supplied USCIS with documents such as proof of medical degrees and authorization to work in the US.
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