On September 14, 2022, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety held a hearing titled: Flatlining Care: Why Immigrants Are Crucial to Bolstering Our Health Care Workforce. I had the opportunity to serve as the expert witness to discuss the growing U.S. healthcare emergency and how Congress can immediately advance bipartisan, smart, and targeted reform critical to addressing the existing lack of access to healthcare in the U.S. I was the immigration lawyer in the room and was able to simplify the complexities of immigration law as it relates to supporting our international healthcare workforce in the U.S.
The shortage of doctors in the U.S. is well documented. It continues to grow due to a variety of factors which are only compounded by the increasing COVID burnout by our frontline workers. Consider that more than 95 million people in the U.S. live in healthcare shortage areas. That’s 1/3 of the United States! The shortage of doctors will only continue to grow. By 2034, the U.S. will face a shortage of up to 124,000 doctors – and, if every American had equal access to medical care, this number balloons to shortages of over 180,400!
In my testimony, I outlined how international doctors are a critical part of the immediate solution to this crisis, but like the rest of our outdated immigration laws, the ones impacting physicians have not seen reform for over 20 years. I urged Congress to pass the following two bills which both have strong bipartisan support:
1) The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, S.1024, led by Chairs Durbin and Cornyn. This bill is a direct recognition of the essential role international doctors have played in the national COVID pandemic and provides necessary green card relief to the international doctors who are working on our front lines.
2) The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, S.1810 (H.R.3541), led by Senators Klobuchar and Collins. Through this bill, Congress would give states the ability to grant Conrad J-1 waivers based on actual need, not an artificial number.
I also urged Congress to exempt international doctors working in underserved areas from the numerical immigrant and nonimmigrant visa quotas as it is a smart, simple solution that will have an immediate and profound impact on the availability of quality healthcare for all Americans.
Lack of access to equitable healthcare is a U.S. emergency, and this bipartisan issue demands immediate bipartisan solutions. Effectuating smart immigration reform allows U.S.-trained doctors to help address this country’s ongoing shortage of access to basic medical care. Yet even this smart, unobjectionable, targeted reform to our immigration system is being met with resistance to move it forward – even by its own co-sponsors – due to the assertion that the U.S. cannot effectuate any immigration reform until the border “crisis” is resolved. I heard firsthand from certain Senators who focused entirely on the border while also acknowledging that the hearing was about our country’s healthcare needs and that we desperately need smart immigration reform. It is disappointing when we see political grandstanding rather than action when we agree that the solutions are simple and straightforward. We can and should address both.
We need our leaders to be brave and to lead on multiple issues. Here, it is critical that our elected officials demonstrate true leadership that is in the best interests of all Americans and immediately support both bills for markup. I urge you to contact your congressional representatives in both the Senate and the House and urge them to be decisive and pass both bills during this term, which you can quickly and easily do here: https://www.aila.org/advo-media/tools/advocacy-action-center#/composeyourown.