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Cárdenas, Lofgren Urge Trump Administration to Allow Foreign-Born Physicians to Practice in the U.S. During COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr 6, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo and Acting Secretary Chad. F. Wolf urging the Departments of State and Homeland Security to allow foreign-born physicians and healthcare workers to practice in the United States during this COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Due to the surge of patients seeking treatments as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, hospitals are in desperate need of personnel support. The letter was signed by 63 Members.

“Today, the United States has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world. For weeks, state, local, and federal officials have focused their efforts on addressing the extreme shortage of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, that has hindered our response to this national emergency,” the Members wrote. “Long-before this pandemic emerged, the United States was already experiencing a shortage of medical workers.  As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, so does the risk to U.S. doctors, nurses, and other critical care workers. As this crisis will undoubtedly continue to take its toll on these professionals, we must do everything in our power to build and retain a robust workforce.”

The letter was signed by Representatives Donald Beyer Jr., Lisa Blunt Rochester, Salud Carbajal, Ed Case, Joaquin Castro, Judy Chu, Gilbert Cisneros, Yvette D. Clarke, J. Luis Correa, Jim Cooper, Jim Costa, Madeleine Dean, Rosa DeLauro, Peter DeFazio, Ted Deutch, Val Demings, Eliot Engel, Anna G. Eshoo, Dwight Evans, Jesús G. “Chuy” Garcia, Sylvia Garcia, Jimmy Gomez, Raúl M. Grijalva, Deb Haaland, Jared Huffman, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Joeseph P. Kennedy III, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Alan Lowenthal, Nita M. Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, James P. McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Eleanor Homes Norton, Ilhan Omar, Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sánchez, Jan Schakowsky, David Scott, Brad Sherman, Albio Sires, Darren Soto, Jackie Speier, Greg Stanton, Haley M. Stevens, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Norma J. Torres, David Trone, Lauren Underwood, Juan Vargas, Marc Veasey, Nydia M. Velázquez, Rob Woodall, John Yarmuth, Seth Moulton.

Last week, Congressman Cárdenas introduced H.R. 6432, legislation to address the physician shortage in the United States by taking the first step in removing unnecessary barriers for doctors trained abroad who now reside in the U.S.

The text of the letter is copied below, and a PDF of the letter can be found here.

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Dear Acting Secretary Wolf and Secretary Pompeo:

We write to strongly urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (State) to ensure that foreign physicians and healthcare workers are able to provide much-needed support to the domestic workforce in the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including by providing critical care for patients suffering from COVID-19.  Today, the United States has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world.  For weeks, state, local, and federal officials have focused their efforts on addressing the extreme shortage of medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, that has hindered our response to this national emergency.  However, one critical shortage area that has thus far been overlooked is that of our healthcare workforce.

Long-before this pandemic emerged, the United States was already experiencing a shortage of medical workers. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, so does the risk to U.S. doctors, nurses, and other critical care workers. As this crisis will undoubtedly continue to take its toll on these professionals, we must do everything in our power to build and retain a robust workforce.

More than 25 percent of doctors and 17 percent of medical workers in the United States are foreign-born. Many of these workers stand ready to serve our country but are unable to do so because of a lack of flexibility in their visa categories and other limitations in our immigration system.  However, there are several steps that DHS and State could immediately implement to ease such restrictions and allow these workers to assist in the COVID-19 fight:

  • Expedited Adjudications:  USCIS should expedite the adjudication of petitions and applications filed by or on behalf of healthcare workers or, at a minimum, exempt such petitions and applications from the March 20, 2020 suspension of premium processing.
  • Employment Authorization Documents (EADs):  USCIS should expedite the adjudication of EADs for healthcare workers, and automatically extend EADs for such workers, including those in J-2, E-2, L-2, and H-4 status.
  • Increased Mobility:  USCIS should suspend the requirements for amended petitions imposed by the July 21, 2015 guidance memo implementing Matter of Simeio Solutions, so that H-1B healthcare workers can quickly move to locations where their services are needed.
  • Medical Licenses:  Consistent with the policy announcement by the White House on March 13, 2020, to allow doctors who are licensed in one state to assist with the COVID-19 response in another state, USCIS should similarly approve H-1B petitions to permit doctors who are licensed in one state to work in another state.
  • Agency Teams:  Both USCIS and the State Department should assign employees to serve on teams to address immigration-related healthcare issues and expedite requests for petitions and applications filed by or on behalf of medical professionals.
  • Flexibility for J-1 Physicians:  State should issue a statement confirming that J-1 physicians are permitted to be redeployed to new rotations within the host training institution as needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Visa Processing:  The State Department should provide emergency visa processing or other accommodations for physicians seeking to enter the United States to commence graduate medical education and training programs that begin on July 1.

Our healthcare system is being pushed to its limits in many areas of the country, while experts confirm that the peak of this crisis has not yet been reached.  It is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to support U.S. physicians and healthcare workers who put their lives on the line every day in the COVID-19 battle and make sure that every American receives proper treatment. We urge you to act on these recommendations and respectfully request your position on these proposals by Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

 

Sincerely,