KRON 4: Lawmakers: Immigrants can help aid U.S. healthcare crisis

By Alexandra Limon

With an aging population and a shortage of all types of medical professionals, the U.S. is facing a healthcare crisis.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle believe immigrants are part of the solution.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) says the nation is facing a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by the year 2034, due to retirements, burnout and the student loan debt created by medical school.

But Padilla says there’s a solution that would quickly add more doctors, nurses and other health workers into the system.

“There are thousands of highly capable healthcare professionals living abroad with the desire to come to America,” he said.

But the U.S. immigration system stops many of those skilled migrants from coming to the U.S. and also force healthcare workers to leave the country when their temporary immigration status expires.

Democrats say one in four doctors and one in six nurses are immigrants, which is why they want to update immigration laws to allow immigrants skilled in healthcare fields to easily come and stay in the U.S.

At a Senate hearing on the issue Wednesday, Republicans agreed. But they said there’s another equally urgent immigration issue.

“I can’t imagine a path forward until we deal with the crisis at the border,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

Cornyn and Thom Tillis (R- N.C.) say any immigration reform legislation must first stop migrants and illegal drugs from coming across the border.

“I, for one, hope we get it done before the end of this Congress,” Tillis said.

Democrats say the two issues are unrelated.

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