Comments by Sanwar Ali:
It is extremely difficult for significant immigration legislation to be passed by both Houses of Congress. There seems to be no suggestion that President Donald Trump will back this new bill, to bring in more migrants to help with the coronavirus pandemic. If Trump does not back it, then the Republicans will not and the bill will most likely fail. The bill is quite likely to be supported by the Democrats.
Trump himself, like his predecessor Obama has had some difficulty passing major immigration legislation. He has been reduced to using existing laws to make things harder by the back door and passing executive orders when he feels he can do so. More US visa applications are also being refused under the Trump Presidency.
A new bill aimed at addressing a shortage of medical workers in America, proposes an increase in US visa availability for foreign doctors and nurses. A bipartisan group of Senators put forward the new legislation in Congress recently, which would make 40,000 US visas and work permits available to immigrant doctors and nurses to join the battle against COVID-19.
When announcing the bill, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said: “Immigrant nurses and doctors play a vital role in our healthcare system, especially in medically underserved areas of our country.”
According to the most recent US government data, from 2010, 16 percent of the medical workforce in America is made up of people born outside the United States.
Green card backlogs and bureaucratic delays
Meanwhile, thousands of nurses find themselves stranded overseas amid green card backlogs and bureaucratic delays. The group of Senators said. “Many of these healthcare workers have already been approved to come to the US as lawful permanent residents.”
It’s understood that the new bill proposes a limited reallocation of unused US visas from previous years, which would be granted to doctors and nurses considered to be qualified enough to assist the US fight against coronavirus.
Republican Senator, David Purdue, said: “The shortage of medical workers is critical and needs immediate attention so that our healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed by this crisis.”
Thousands of healthcare workers infected by virus
According to official data, more than 9,000 US healthcare workers had been infected by COVID-19 by mid-April. The data, compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that more than 27 medical professionals had died from the disease.
In New York, the state most affected by coronavirus in the US, authorities have had to call on retired nurses and doctors to volunteer their services, while also asking for assistance from medical professionals in other states.
Across the US, it’s estimated that the doctor shortage ranges from 29,000 to 43,000, according to the Association of Medical Colleges.
The bipartisan group of Senators said that thousands of doctors already working in the US on temporary work visas are awaiting approval on their permanent work permit applications.
Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act
The new bill proposed by a number of US Senators, known as the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, would enable migrant nurses with approved immigrant visas and physicians with immigrant petitions already approved to enter the US and fill job roles in hospitals and medical facilities.
It’s expected that the bill will be tied to any new COVID-19 rescue legislation Congress is considering.
Under the bill, medical professions will be considered provided that they meet certain licensing requirements, pay filing fees and clear national security and criminal background checks.
However, it’s unclear whether the thousands of immigrant doctors currently in the US, but unable to work as they’ve not completed their residency requirements, would qualify under the terms of the bill.
Meanwhile, employers would need to provide evidence that the hiring of an immigrant medical professional would not displace American workers.
New immigration bill backed by US medical associations
The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act has the support of a number of professional US medical associations, including the American Hospital Association, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership and Physicians for American Healthcare Access.
The bill also has the backing of a number of US immigration groups, most notably the American Immigration Lawyers Association, FWD.us and the National Immigration Forum.
Coronavirus in the US
As of May 7, the number of coronavirus cases in the US had reached 1,263,705, with 74,817 deaths recorded. New York remains the hardest hit, with 333,491 cases and 25,956 deaths.
Meanwhile, as the US looks to reopen its economy, President Donald Trump has said that ‘more deaths are a necessary price.’ Trump told Fox News: “We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years.”
Latest coronavirus updates, visa and immigration restrictions
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