Chris Chmielenski's picture


  by  Chris Chmielenski

Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) have introduced legislation that would give 40,000 green cards to foreign doctors and nurses.

A release posted on Sen. Perdue's website claims that the legislation would not increase the number of green cards issued each year. Instead, it claims the proposal would recapture "unused" green cards from previous years.

Since all green cards set aside by Congress each year are used, it's unclear where the 40,000 green cards would be "recaptured" from.

Here's the justification for increasing the visas:

"The growing shortage of doctors and nurses over the past decade has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis," said Senator Perdue.

Is there really a shortage?

While the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a shortage of emergency room and intensive care personnel, the shortage has been mostly confined to the New York metro area.

Many states have suspended elective medical procedures, and medical offices across the country have closed under shelter-at-home orders, reducing (or eliminating) work for healthcare professionals.

Our Media Standards Team, which monitors news coverage of immigration- and jobs-related issues, has been collecting news stories reporting on the pandemic's impact on the medical community. In Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic announced that it has furloughed or cut the hours of 30,000 employees in its facilities across the country.

When Mayo Clinic stopped elective services the last week of March, it lost $162 million for just that month, said Jeff Bolton, Mayo's chief administrative officer. Losses through the end of the year are predicted to be $3 billion.

Politico has reported other furloughs across the country.

19 states have voluntarily reported health care layoffs as a significant driver of their spike in unemployment insurance claims in the DOLs past three weekly jobs reports. And nearly half of medical practices have temporarily furloughed staff...

Global pandemic

Furthermore, no country is safe from the Covid-19 virus. It's a global pandemic that's not confined to one country or one region of the world. If one of the wealthiest nations doesn't have enough medical personnel, as the group of Senators claim, then what country does? Is it fair for the U.S. to be importing doctors and nurses from around the world while their home countries are also ravaged with the Covid-19 pandemic and experience their own shortage of healthcare workers?

U.S. has shortage of residencies, not American medical students

But current statistics show that there isn't a shortage of medical personnel in the United States. Instead, there's a shortage of medical residencies, and without those residencies, medical school graduates can't practice medicine.

Any shortage is due to structural causes, not for a lack of willing and qualified workers.

Sens. Durbin, Perdue, Young, and Coons should spend their time addressing the structural causes, rather than proposing a permanent change to immigration law that would likely further block qualified Americans from these high-level health care fields.

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Deputy Director for NumbersUSA

High-skilled Americans

Updated: Mon, May 18th 2020 @ 7:50am EDT

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