Durbin Questions Witnesses During Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Hearing On Our Health Care Workforce

Testimony from an Illinois witness, Dr. Ram Alur, underscores how critical immigrant doctors are to our nation’s health care system, especially in rural and underserved areas

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned witnesses at 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 explored 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.

Earlier in the hearing, Durbin 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.

“The question is can we construct a system for legal immigration that says to this doctor [Dr. Alur] and to many others like him, you are welcome in America.  We need you in America.  We thank you for being here in America.  And we want you to have your family with you and to have confidence that they can realize the American dream too,” Durbin said.  “Dr. Alur, you work in the Marion Veterans Hospital.  Are there other foreign trained physicians in that hospital?”

Dr. Alur responded that almost every department at Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center has immigrant doctors.  He also explained that in Southern Illinois, no hospital department would function without immigrant doctors.

“That point is so important for members on both sides of the aisle… to make you go through all the traps you have to go through year after year after year, uncertain as to whether you’re going to miss one little step and be judged ineligible for any future service to our country, that’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to your family and it’s not fair to the veterans you serve,” Durbin responded.  “Marion is in a rural part of Illinois… attracting doctors there is harder than it is in Chicago or St. Louis… and those of you who serve there, we especially are grateful.  I think we need to take into consideration just what kind of contributions you make.”

Last year, Durbin introduced the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which would provide a temporary stopgap to quickly address our nation’s shortage of doctors and nurses by recapturing 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 unused immigrant visas for doctors that Congress has previously authorized.

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.