Visa Restrictions Delay Opening of Doctor’s Rural Texas Clinic for Years

Indian immigrant and doctor Lata Shridharan provides a vital service to the people of Plano, Texas, and Frisco, Texas. Combined the two locations of her clinic, Natural Pediatrics, serve nearly 2,000 people and employs 10 Americans. The clinic also fuses Western and Eastern medicine, which offers patients a diversity of care options.

Today, Shridharan is a U.S. citizen, but the process wasn’t easy. After studying medicine in Mumbai, she married Shri Balachandran, a technology specialist. When he moved to the United States to work for Nokia, she joined him on a spouse visa — one that prevented her from working. After applying for a green card — the wait for which delayed her residency — Shridharan was finally able to continue her training at a hospital in El Paso. Years later, she founded Natural Pediatrics. “In less than a year we had more than a thousand patients,” she says, noting that the diverse immigrant community in Plano was excited about the practice’s alternative treatment plans. “We treat a lot of Indians, Chinese, Koreans, and Hispanics.” If immigration policy hadn’t gotten in the way, she could have opened her clinic sooner.

Shridharan believes that the local economy — as well as the nation’s — depends on immigrants, from the labor force to the corporate world. “If all of the immigrants had to go home overnight, that would be a big hit on our economy in the United States,” Shridharan says. “So many are in high positions in big companies, highly educated.” And while Shridharan believes that all undocumented workers need to be paying taxes, she understands that even the estimated 25 to 50 percent of undocumented workers who don’t pay income taxes are nonetheless vital to the economy. “When we talk about illegal immigrants, we’re talking about our labor force. And our labor force depends on those people — we can’t afford to lose that work force,” she says.

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