Durbin, Perdue Urge Congress To Address Shortage Of Doctors, Nurse On Senate Floor

Durbin, Perdue Push To Include Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act In Next COVID-19 Relief Package

WASHINGTON – In speeches on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) today called for Congressional leadership to include their bipartisan, bicameral Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act in the next coronavirus relief package.  Durbin and Perdue introduced this legislation earlier this year to quickly strengthen our health care workforce and improve health care access for Americans during the COVID-19 crisis.  It has received strong support from our nation’s medical community.

The members’ proposal would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 unused immigrant visas for doctors that Congress has previously authorized and allocate those visas to doctors and nurses who can help in the fight against COVID-19. 

In his speech on the Senator floor, Durbin shared the story of an Illinois cancer doctor who is stuck in the green-card backlog, Dr. Bhanu Vakkalanka, to highlight the importance of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act.

Dr. Vakkalanka and his wife, Dr. Sasi Royyuru, are both physicians.  They met in medical school in India and came to the U.S. in 2005.  Unfortunately, they are two of thousands of doctors who are stuck in the green-card backlog.  They have lived in the U.S. for 15 years, and while their green card petitions were approved nearly a decade ago, they are not yet lawful permanent residents. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, their temporary immigration status puts them at great risk.  If they contract COVID-19 and become disabled or die, their family could lose their immigration status and be forced to leave the United States. 

“Dr. Vakkalanka and Dr. Royyuru make it clear why Congress needs to include the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act in the next coronavirus relief legislation,” Durbin said.  “These two good doctors from India, and thousands of others like them, would finally receive their green cards under our bill.  They and their families would get the permanent immigration status they deserve and be able to use their skills to serve on the frontlines of the pandemic wherever they are needed most.”

Durbin concluded, “This man [Dr. Vakkalanka], after giving 15 years to the United States practicing medicine in areas where he’s desperately needed, is simply asking for a chance to become a legal, permanent resident of the United States.  It’s not too much to ask.  For all he has given us, and his wife as well, we owe it to him and his family to give them the peace of mind that they have a future in the United States…  I hope we can come together in Congress to quickly aid these immigrant health heroes.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is 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.

The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act currently has 37 bipartisan sponsors in the Senate and 59 bipartisan sponsors in the House of Representatives.

Last week, Durbin and Perdue led a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to include their bipartisan, bicameral Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act in the next coronavirus relief package.  The letter was also signed by Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who are original cosponsors of the legislation in the Senate, as well as U.S. Representatives Bradley Schneider (D-IL), Tom Cole (R-OK), Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), and Don Bacon (R-NE), who introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

Full text of the bill is available here.  A summary of the legislation is available here.  A section-by-section of the legislation is available here