“AAPI supports the Bill, Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, announced by Senators Durbin, Perdue, Young, Coons To Introduce Bipartisan Bill Addressing Shortage Of Doctors, Nurses, and urges the Congress to approve the Bill and allow the thousands of Indian American Docors on the backlog list for Green Card List to be abel to serve their patients whole-heartedly without disruption,” said Dr. Sure Reddy, President of AAPI.
Dr. Reddy was responding to a Bill announced by U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, along with Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Chris Coons (D-DE) stating that they will introduce bipartisan legislation, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, to provide a temporary stopgap to quickly address our nation’s shortage of doctors and nurses, which poses a significant risk to our ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Healthcare continues to be at the center of the national debate, especially in the context of the global Corona Virus pandemic affecting millions of people in the United States and having taken the lives of several healthcare professionals who have been the forefront caring for the hundreds of thousands of patients diagnosed with the deadly virus.
An estimated 800,000 immigrants who are working legally in the United States are waiting for a green card, an unprecedented backlog in employment-based immigration that has fueled a bitter policy debate but has been largely ignored by the Congress. Most of those waiting for employment-based green cards that would allow them to stay in the United States permanently are Indian nationals. And the backlog among this group is so acute that an Indian national who applies for a green card now can expect to wait up to 50 years to get one. The wait is largely the result of an annual quota unchanged since 1990, and per-country limits enacted decades before the tech boom made India the top source of employment-based green card-seekers.
According to AAPI, there is an ongoing physician shortage, which affects the quality of care provided to American patients. There are patients who face lengthy delays in various specialties, a situation which will worsen over time.
In a detailed Report on Green Card delays affecting Indian American physicians, the Green Card Backlog Task Force by AAPI had pointed out that there are over 10,000 Physicians waiting for Green Card for decades. AAPI members would like to see the Green Card backlog addressed, which it says has adversely impacted the Indian American community. During their annual Legislative Day on Capitol Hill, they have stressed the need for bipartisan efforts that will provide Green Cards to those serving in America’s under-served and rural communities.
Thousands of Indian-American Physicians have been affected by the backlog for Green Card, impacting their ability to work and provided the much needed services for the people affected by the pandemic across the nation. They constitute less than one percent of the country’s population, but account for nine percent of the American physicians. One out of every seven doctors serving in the US is of Indian heritage, providing medical care to over 40 million of US population.
The Senators’ proposal, to be introduced when the Senate reconvenes, would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 unused immigrant visas for doctors that Congress has previously authorized and allocate those visas to doctors and nurses who can help in the fight against COVID-19.
“Consider this: one-sixth of our health care workforce is foreign-born. Immigrant nurses and doctors play a vital role in our health care system, and their contributions are now more crucial than ever. Where would we be in this pandemic without them? It is unacceptable that thousands of doctors currently working in the U.S. on temporary visas are stuck in the green card backlog, putting their futures in jeopardy and limiting their ability to contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” said Durbin.
“This bipartisan, targeted, and timely legislation will strengthen our health care workforce and improve health care access for Americans in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support these vital health care workers.”
“The growing shortage of doctors and nurses over the past decade has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Sen. Perdue. “Fortunately, there are thousands of trained health professionals who want to practice in the United States. This proposal would simply reallocate a limited number of unused visas from prior years for doctors and nurses who are qualified to help in our fight against COVID-19. This shortage is critical and needs immediate attention so that our healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed in this crisis.”
Specifically, the Senators’ proposal:
Recaptures unused visas from previous fiscal years for doctors, nurses, and their families
Exempts these visas from country caps
Requires employers to attest that immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace an American worker
Requires the Department of Homeland Security and State Department to expedite the processing of recaptured visas
Limits the filing period for recaptured visas to 90 days following the termination of the President’s COVID-19 emergency declaration
“AAPI joins other similar organizations including Illinois Health and Hospital Association, American Hospital Association, American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Physicians for American Healthcare Access, American Immigration Lawyers Association, FWD.us, and National Immigration Forum, that have come in support of The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act,” said Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee. .
Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of the Board of Trustees of AAPI, urged the members of Congress to include physicians graduating from U.S. residency programs for Green Cards in the comprehensive immigration reform bill. “Physicians graduating from accredited U.S. residency programs should also receive similar treatment. Such a proposal would enable more physicians to be eligible for Green Cards and address the ongoing physician shortage,” she said.
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, President-elect of AAPI, said, “AAPI has once again succeeded in bringing to the forefront the many important health care issues facing the physician community and raising our voice unitedly before the US Congress members.”
“AAPI welcomes this bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Perdue, Durbin, Young and Coons; the bill would help address the critical healthcare shortage in the United States, a weakness that has been evident during the COVID-19 national emergency,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI.
“The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act recognizes the importance and the need of immigrant doctors and nurses and their families. At this critical time, addressing shortages in the health care workforce is imperative. By ensuring unused visas do not go to waste, the bill will help doctors and nurses and their families, who have been waiting in line, immigrate sooner,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, Secretary of AAPI.
Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI, said, “AAPI has been consistent in bringing to the forefront the many important health care issues facing the physician community and raising our voice unitedly before the US Congress members. And we have been able to discover our own potential to be a player in shaping the health of each patient with a focus on health maintenance than disease intervention and to be a player in crafting the delivery of health care in the most efficient manner as well as to strive for equality in health globally.”
Full text of the bill is available here. A summary of the legislation is available here. A section-by-section of the legislation is available here. For more details on AAPI and its legislative agenda, please visit: www.aapiusa.org