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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) will lead his colleagues in reintroducing two pieces of bipartisan legislation to address critical healthcare workforce shortages and eliminate arbitrary, ineffective per-country visa caps. Both bills establish merit-based immigration policies.
“In rural states like North Dakota, highly skilled immigrant doctors and nurses play a critical role in our healthcare workforce, sometimes providing the only specialty care available in the area,” said Senator Cramer. “Our open borders and per-country caps are nonsensical and chaotic. It’s long-past time our immigration policies reflected a skills-based approach, welcoming hard-working immigrants who help fill the labor and service gaps in the U.S.”
The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act
The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, legislation led by Senator Cramer and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), makes a limited number of green cards available to qualified immigrant doctors and nurses to address critical healthcare workforce shortages. This bill allows the “recapture” of green cards already authorized by Congress but unused in previous years, allotting up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and up to 15,000 immigrant visas for physicians. This bill does not authorize any new visas.
This legislation would require employers to attest immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace an American worker. Additionally, it would necessitate eligible immigrant medical professionals to meet licensing requirements, pay filing fees, and clear rigorous national security and criminal history background checks before they can receive recaptured green cards.
The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act is supported by several stakeholders including the North Dakota Long Term Care Association, North Dakota Hospital Association, and the North Dakota Medical Association.
“On behalf of the North Dakota Hospital Association and its 46 member hospitals, we appreciate Senator Cramer’s leadership in introducing the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act. This legislation would address the healthcare workforce shortages facing North Dakota hospitals and provide the needed flexibility for hiring both highly trained international nurses and physicians. Both professionals play such critical roles when providing patient care,” said Tim Blasl, President, North Dakota Hospital Association.
“We appreciate and commend Senator Cramer for introducing the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act. International nurses are helping us staff skilled nursing facilities, in fact we couldn’t provide the care we do without them. This legislation will allow additional nurses to immigrate to North Dakota, where they will find fulfilling jobs to care for our elderly and welcoming communities who value their caring hearts and strong work ethic. Immigrants are a vital part of our workforce,” said Shelly Peterson, President, North Dakota Long Term Care Association.
“Increasing the number of visas available can open employment pathways for more physicians to better serve North Dakota in high-need areas, such as in rural healthcare settings and filling underserved specialty areas across North Dakota,” said NDMA President Stephanie Dahl. “Having the ability to access unused visas to advance healthcare is a smart move and should be supported.”
Joining Senators Cramer and Durbin are U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Todd Young (R-IN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Thune (R-SD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
The EAGLE Act
The Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act, which will be reintroduced by Senator Cramer and U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), allows American employers to focus on hiring immigrants based on their merit, not their birthplace. This legislation would phase out the 7% per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas and raises the 7% per-country limit on family-sponsored visas to 15%.
Most prospective employment-based immigrants currently live and work in the U.S. on temporary visas while waiting for a visa to become available. Some of these individuals remain in temporary status for many years, if not decades, because of the caps applied to their country of nationality. The EAGLE Act would ease the backlog for those who wait the longest.
“The EAGLE Act is a win-win for America and Americans. Similar common-sense provisions passed both bodies of Congress with broad bipartisan support in 116th Congress. This bill makes the system more merit based. The bill transitions the allocation of employment based green cards to a first-come, first served application while not unduly burdening foreign nationals from countries that were accustomed to special treatment and having no wait time at all to receive green cards due to discriminatory per country limits. The bill ensures that American workers are made the top-priority for hiring by all U.S. companies such that no foreign worker can undercut an American worker for a U.S. job. We are incredibly grateful to Senator Cramer and Senator Hickenlooper for leading the bill and urge it’s swift passage in Congress,” said Aman Kapoor, Immigration Voice.