Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on Our Health Care Workforce

Today’s hearing examines how immigrants can bolster our depleting health care workforce; Durbin introduces an Illinois witness, Dr. Ram Alur

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety hearing entitled “Flatlining Care: Why Immigrants Are Crucial to Bolstering Our Health Care Workforce.”  Today’s hearing will explore how immigrants can help fill gaps in our health care system to ensure that our communities have access to the health care they need and deserve.  The U.S. health care workforce shortages are dire, with studies confirming physician demand in the U.S. will continue to grow faster than supply, leading to a projected total physician shortage up to 124,000 by 2034.

Key Quotes:

“We are here to discuss the shortage of health care workers, and yet the conversation so far from the other side of the aisle has not addressed that issue.  They want to talk about border security and border safety.  They are important issues… but I would hope that we would focus more of our time on actually trying to deal with a problem that’s very real across the United States.”

“What we are talking about today is looking at the immigration issue and seeing nurses and doctors and medical professionals and care givers.  They are already here and we need more of them.”

“I traveled my state in the month of August from the City of Chicago down to the most rural areas of Illinois and the message was consistently the same… they are facing a dramatic shortage in nurses, a dramatic shortage in doctors.  And what we are trying to do here is find a solution to this.  But as long as we are stuck on the issue of law enforcement, we can’t even address this.”

“Our immigration system is broken, and the reason we haven’t changed it is not for lack of effort… we are a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 Committee… it is difficult to find a bipartisan approach that rings true to everyone involved.  We have tried, and I’m afraid we haven’t reached it yet, but I hope we do soon.”

“Wouldn’t it be something if we did, before the end of the year, a bipartisan bill that brought more doctors and nurses to America where we desperately need them right now.  If we put aside all of our differences on the other things and dealt with that?  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to the American people that we get it?”

“The American Hospital Association recently called the current hospital workforce shortage a ‘national emergency.’  They project a shortage of 1.1 million nurses by the end of the year.  This is a critical emergency.  To say that we have to solve the Southern border crisis before we can consider allowing nurses to come to this country and care for Americans is just plain wrong.”

“The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the U.S. could see a shortage of 124,000 doctors by 2034.  That is for real.”

“I can tell you that there are many of them that are here, these physicians, already serving our communities and saving lives as we speak.  And many of them, unfortunately, due to the lack of available green cards, are forced to remain on temporary visas… and when their kids reach the age of 21, the protection that allows them to stay with their parents in the United States evaporates and they are subject to deportation.”

“We can fix that.  That is what this Committee does.  This is our jurisdiction.  Wouldn’t it be great if before the end of the year, we had a bipartisan answer to that simple challenge?”

“The bills that have been addressed here—the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which I cosponsor with Senator Cornyn, the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act—have more than a dozen Republican cosponsors.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is availablhere.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is availablhere.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin also introduced one of today’s witnesses, Dr. Ram Alur.  Dr. Alur has been a physician at Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion, Illinois, since 2011.  Dr. Alur is also one of thousands of doctors who are stuck in the green-card backlog.

Key Quotes:

“Dr. Alur’s hospital serves veterans [from] Southern Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana… he is caught up in the green-card backlog… He now has helped to co-found an organization of similar physicians who want to be part of America’s future and want their family to be part of America’s future.  And they are stymied by the limitations of green cards available to allow that.”

“It is time for us to drop the blinders and realize we need you, Dr. Alur.  The veterans of Southern Illinois and Kentucky need you and people just like you all across the United States.  So I’m glad you’re here today.  We are honored for your presence.”  

Video of Durbin’s introduction of Dr. Alur is availablhere.

Audio of Durbin’s introduction of Dr. Alur is available here. 

Footage of Durbin’s introduction of Dr. Alur is availablhere for TV Stations.