Durbin: Congress Must Support The Immigrant Health Heroes On The Frontlines Of COVID-19
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, thanked the health care heroes on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted one special group of health care workers – immigrants. Durbin also called on his colleagues to support the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, legislation to quickly address the plight of immigrant doctors and nurses who are stuck in the green-card backlog, which poses a significant risk to our ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Durbin’s floor speech was part of his initiative to share the stories of #ImmigrantHealthHeroes. On the floor, Durbin shared the story of Dr. Ram Sanjeev Alur, an internist and hospitalist in the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion, Illinois. Unfortunately, Dr. Alur is one of thousands of doctors who are stuck in the green-card backlog. He is currently on the frontlines of the pandemic as a member of his hospital’s COVID-19 response team.
“The green card backlog includes thousands of doctors, medical doctors who are currently working in our country on temporary basis. These doctors face many restrictions due to their temporary status, such as not being able to volunteer at hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots where they are so desperately needed,” Durbin said. “In Southern Illinois, we are desperate for good doctors. We need them not just at Marion VA, but we need more specialists around the entire region… how could we take a good man like this [Dr. Alur] who is willing to serve our veterans and do more in this COVID-19 pandemic and tell him he’s not welcome to be a citizen in this country?”
Durbin continued, “When I heard Dr. Alur’s story, it inspired me to work with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to introduce this law that I mentioned, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act. Under our bill, the doctor and thousands like him could receive their green cards. They and their families would get permanent immigration status that they deserve and be able to use their skills to serve on the front lines of the pandemic if they are needed, and they are. I hope that, even in these divided times, we can come together in Congress to quickly aid these immigrant health care heroes.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.
Last week, Durbin, along with Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced bipartisan legislation, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, to provide a temporary stopgap to quickly address our nation’s shortage of doctors and nurses. This legislation would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 unused immigrant visas for doctors. These are visas that Congress has previously authorized but that were not used.
Durbin has also introduced legislation to eliminate the family and employment green card backlog by increasing the number of green cards.
Dr. Alur was born in India. As a child, he survived a bout with meningitis, a disease that can often be fatal. This experience inspired him to become a physician. He went to medical school in India and then trained in internal medicine in the United Kingdom.
Dr. Alur came to the United States in 2007 for medical residency training. In 2011, he began working as an internist and hospitalist in the Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion, Illinois. Dr. Alur has led the emergency room and inpatient unit for the last three years. And now he is on the frontlines of the pandemic as a member of his hospital’s COVID-19 response team.
Dr. Alur lives in Marion with his wife and three children, who are 12, 8, and 6. Unfortunately, Dr. Alur is one of thousands of doctors who are stuck in the green-card backlog. He has been forced to renew his temporary visa four times since he started working at the VA.
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