Urges Congress to allow thousands of Indian doctors on green card backlog to bolster US healthcare system.
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has urged the US Congress to pass a bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing shortage of doctors and nurses in the US during the coronavirus pandemic.
Extending support for the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI also urged the Congress “to allow thousands of immigrant Indian American doctors on green card backlog to bolster the American health care system.”
“AAPI supports the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act S.3599/ HR6788,” said Dr. Reddy in a statement by AAPI, the largest ethnic medical association with a membership of 80,000.
The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Dick Durbin, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, along with fellow Democrat Chris Coons and Republicans David Perdue and Todd Young.
If passed, it would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 such visas for physicians.
The bill continues to be at the center of a national debate, especially in the context of the global coronavirus pandemic with the US at its epicenter with over 1.52 million cases and 90,000 deaths.
This deadly virus has claimed lives of many healthcare professionals who are on the frontline caring for the hundreds of thousands of patients affected by this disease, AAPI said.
An estimated 800,000 legal immigrants who are working in the US are waiting for a green card. This unprecedented backlog in employment-based immigration has fueled a bitter policy debate but has been largely ignored by the Congress, AAPI said.
Most of those waiting for employment-based green cards which would allow them to stay in the US are of Indian origin, AAPI noted.
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 obtain it.
The wait is largely due to the annual per-country quota immigration law, which has been unchanged since 1990, the Association said.
This heightened demand for physicians will only continue to grow, and will soon outpace supply leading to a projected shortfall of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032.
Thus, recapturing the unused visas/Green cards that are available for International Medical Graduates is critical to addressing this mounting shortage of physicians, AAPI said.
In a detailed report on Green Card delays affecting Indian American physicians, AAPI Green Card Backlog Task Force had pointed out that there are over 10,000 Physicians waiting for Green Cards 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, AAPI stressed the need for bipartisan efforts in passing the Health care Resilience Act, which will recapture and provide Green Cards for physicians serving in America’s under-served and rural communities.
“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,” said Durbin as cited by AAPI.
“Where would we be in this pandemic without them?” he asked. ”It is unacceptable that thousands of doctors currently working in the US 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,” .
“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,” Durbin said.
“The growing shortage of doctors and nurses over the past decade has been exacerbated by the covid-19 crisis,” said Perdue. “Fortunately, there are thousands of trained health professionals who want to practice in the US.”
“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,” he noted. “This shortage is critical and needs immediate attention so that our healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed in this crisis.”
Specifically, the legislation:
- Recaptures unused visas/green cards from previous fiscal years for doctors, nurses, and their families
- Exempts these visas/green cards 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 cov-19 emergency declaration