WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress and the Trump administration must act to advance immigration solutions that protect essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care experts said on a press call today.
Speakers underscored the importance of immigrants in addressing health care worker shortages in the U.S.— particularly in underserved communities. They encouraged policymakers to take specific actions to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, such as asking the federal government to continue to process worker visas and suspend or extend immigration-related deadlines.
The following are quotes from speakers on today’s call:
Sister Jacquelyn McCarthy, Director of Bethany Health Care Center, Framingham, Massachusetts:
“At Bethany Health Care Center, we depend every day on the hard work of Haitian immigrants, who not only make up more than 6% of our workforce but are also our friends, our colleagues and our neighbors. Massachusetts is facing a shortage of qualified nursing aides, and as we fight the coronavirus pandemic, and our facility cannot afford to lose dependable staff — if we did, we could not replace them. That’s why the government must expand Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the tens of thousands of Haitians and other immigrants currently living in the U.S.”
Edison Suasnavas, Molecular Oncology Specialist and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Recipient:
“I am one of nearly 30,000 healthcare workers with DACA status at the frontlines of the coronavirus response. We are risking our lives to protect our communities while living simultaneously with the incredible stress and uncertainty around the future of DACA. Immigrants of all statuses are helping to stop the spread of this virus. Instead of ripping our families apart, the Trump Administration and Congress must act immediately to provide us, and our families, with a path to citizenship and the long-term stability we deserve.”
Frank Trinity, Chief Legal Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges:
“With an unprecedented number of desperately ill patients needing emergency care all across the country, now is the time for our government to take every possible action to ensure that these highly qualified and courageous health professionals are available in the fight against the coronavirus.”
Dr. Amit Vashist, SVP & Chief Clinical Officer, Ballad Health; Member, Public Policy Committee, Society of Hospital Medicine:
“This pandemic is a war with an invisible enemy, and immigrant physicians have been absolutely critical to providing quality care, especially on the frontlines — but current visa restrictions have limited the ability to deploy these physicians in communities with the greatest need. Federal agencies and Congress should provide additional flexibility in visa processing to allow for automatic renewals and expediting processing so immigrant medical workers can focus on treating the sick and not on their visa requirements. Tens of thousands of our physicians continue to endure years, even decades of waiting to obtain a permanent residency in the United States and at the same time, relentlessly and fearlessly serve their communities including in this COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time we take care of them and their long-term immigration needs, and give them the peace of mind that they so desperately deserve. I am proud and thankful that the Society of Hospital Medicine has been at the forefront of strongly supporting and advocating this issue not only for the thousands of immigrant hospitalist physicians, but for the overall physician community.”
Jacinta Ma, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, National Immigration Forum:
“With immigrants accounting for 17% of health care workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that these workers are vital to our communities. Congress and the Trump administration both have an opportunity to advance solutions that protect immigrants, and remove immigration-related barriers for immigrant medical professionals by ensuring that immigrant doctors, nurses, home health care workers, researchers, and others can continue their vital work during this pandemic while being afforded adequate protection from COVID-19.”
Ali Noorani, President and CEO, National Immigration Forum:
“Immigrants are already on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, representing an indispensable part of America’s health care workforce. And as our population continues to age and grow — and as we ready for the next pandemic — we will only need more of the immigrant community’s expertise, talent and courage. The federal government must immediately remove barriers for immigrant medical professionals to ensure we have as many qualified hands as possible to not only fight this virus, but ensure we are prepared for the public health challenges of the future.”