Healthcare and Immigration Solutions
Health Care Providers, Industry Leaders, Immigrant Healthcare Workers, and Public Health Experts Warn High Stakes for Quality Healthcare, Call for Path to Citizenship for Immigrant Workers on Frontlines of COVID Pandemic
Participants urged Congress to include paths to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, essential workers, and farmworkers in the budget reconciliation bill and rejected false claims that immigrants are responsible for spreading the COVID pandemic.
Chicago, IL — Today healthcare providers, immigrant healthcare workers, health industry leaders, and public health experts from around the country urged Congress to include proposed immigration reforms within the budget reconciliation process and rejected false claims that immigrants bear responsibility for spreading the COVID pandemic. The virtual event, “Healthcare and Immigration Solutions,” was sponsored by the American Business Immigration Coalition.
Participants also announced they are circulating a letter urging Congressional leadership to include pathways to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and other essential healthcare workers in any reconciliation bill moving forward.
“We desperately need more healthcare workers across the entire industry from entry-level health home aids to nurses, primary care doctors and everything in between. Our current immigration policy has not only slowed down the flow of qualified individuals into the U.S., it prevents many qualified immigrants who are already here and are valued members of our communities from contributing to the full extent of their potential during a time when we need them the most,” said ABIC board member and Former Chairman, President and CEO of HMS. “Sadly, foreign-born workers represent over 30 percent of the healthcare workers in our nation who have died of Covid… I’m proud to be one of the first signatories on a letter of healthcare organizations urging Congress to include legalization for essential workers, Dreamers and TPS recipients in any reconciliation bill moving forward.”
Sandra Lindsay, Director of Patient Care Services in Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s Critical Care department and an immigrant from Jamaica who volunteered to be the first person in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 also participated in the summit. “My story is an example of how immigrant healthcare workers around the country have been on the frontlines of combatting the pandemic since the very beginning and continue to save lives and put their own at risk every single day. Our work and our sacrifices should be recognized. I am proud of the work that I and so many immigrant healthcare workers, including Dreamers, TPS recipients and other essential workers are doing all over the country in these challenging times.”
Congress is poised to include pathways to citizenship for Dreamers, farmworkers, TPS holders, and essential workers in an upcoming budget reconciliation bill. Many have been frontline workers throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
There are almost 280,000 undocumented workers in the healthcare industry, including 62,600 DACA-eligible individuals. They are the backbone of our healthcare system working as nursing assistants, home health aides, personal care aides, medical assistants, dental assistants, and registered nurses. They also serve in frontline jobs that keep our medical and care facilities running, including housekeepers and cleaners, receptionists and clerks, and janitors and building cleaners. As of 2020, an estimated 11,600 TPS recipients were serving as healthcare workers, including among other professions home health and personal care aides, nursing assistants, orderlies, and psychiatric aides.
For these workers and their employers, and for the sake of quality healthcare and economic recovery during the pandemic, Congress must ensure undocumented and other immigrants be granted access to permanent status and a pathway to citizenship.
While ABIC had originally hoped for a bipartisan deal for immigration solutions, it is now clear that the budget reconciliation process is the best vehicle for creating pathways to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who continue to treat patients and save lives during this ongoing pandemic.
Additional speaker comments included:
Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Syrian Immigrant; ABIC board member; President and Partner, Pulmonary Consultants: “At one point we had to close the practice because of the COVID pandemic. All of our physicians got infected with Covid in the first surge, including myself. I did not recover completely. I lost my senses of smell and taste. But in spite of that, we continue to work and provide services to the hospitals we’re serving… Some of our nurses are DACA recipients and it’s very difficult nowadays to find nurses and medical assistants because of the shortage in healthcare In St. Anthony’s Hospital where I practice. It’s very difficult to find critical care nurses because of the Covid pandemic, because of the fact that many of the nurses in critical care have decided to leave the profession… It is unfathomable that in the 21st Century in the United States of America that we have patients dying because they do not have access to healthcare and we do not have enough nurses and physicians to treat our patients…I urge Congress to approve commonsense immigration reforms that will lead to pathways to citizenship to Dreamers, asylees and healthcare workers.”
Monica Lazaro Davadi, DACA Recipient and Program Manager, Dana Farber Cancer Institute – Boston: “In times of workforce shortages, we cannot afford to lose a single workforce member, which also includes 500,000 DACA recipients and essential workers. Communicable diseases do not recognize borders or immigration status. One of the many lessons learned from the Covid 19 pandemic is that to have a thriving, robust economy, we must take care of everyone. I urge Congress to make 2021 the year that we pass commonsense immigration solutions that enable DACA recipients, TPS holders and undocumented immigrants to stop living a life in fear and unleash all the potential that we have to offer and to maximize contributions to this economy. As Congress moves forward with legislation, I urge that they think of all the immigrants who did not turn their backs on this country and instead supported our healthcare system in this time of great crisis.”
Dr. Phil Brown, Chief Community Impact Officer, Novant Health; President, North Carolina Medical Society: “Covid has brought on an entirely different challenge in healthcare. While we have always struggled to have an adequate workforce, it’s always been a very thin workforce because the health of our country is not very good. Covid has really brought that to an acute head. We are no longer a thin workforce; we are a decimated workforce… This is the time, during budget reconciliation, to pass common sense immigration reform that creates pathways to citizenship for so many folks who are already here working side by side with us.”
The American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens. ABIC is active in key states and communities across the country engaging activists, advocates, business leaders and elected officials on the urgency of passing immigration reform that boosts our economy, creates jobs, eases the labor shortage and supports families..