Arabic nurse holding tablet for older adult, sitting on couch.

Long-term care provider advocates have been urging the federal government to look at immigration reform as one solution to the direct care workforce shortage. Before leaving Washington, DC, for their home offices next week, Congress is expected to vote on one such measure.

The American Senior Housing Association, ASHA Vice President of Government Affairs Jeanne McGlynn Delgado told McKnight’s Senior Living on Thursday, “strongly believes that immigration must be part of the solution to the workforce shortage.”

“There are not enough workers in the US to fill these jobs,” she added. “We must look to foreign workers to fill some of these jobs so our seniors can age with the dignity they deserve.” 

The House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on the bipartisan Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment Act of 2022, Bloomberg Government reported. The EAGLE Act would increase the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7% of the total number of such visas available per year to 15% and would eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based immigrant visas. 

“Many lawmakers have touted the bill, which has broad bipartisan support, as a way to streamline green card access for highly skilled immigrants and meet employer demands in the US,” the media outlet reported.

EAGLE is but one of the reform measures advocates are calling for. ASHA and LeadingAge both wrote to leaders in Congress this month asking the lame duck session to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Temporary Protected Status program and other reforms.

“We ardently support the EAGLE Act (HR 3648) that the House is considering next week, and we have actively advocated for the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, the Health Care Workforce Resilience Act, the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act and the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act,” a representative of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living told the McKnight’s Business Daily Thursday. “We are also very involved in the coalition supporting the Ensuring Caregivers for the Aged and Disabled Act, which would implement a new temporary guest worker H-2 Visa Program for our sector.

In a Nov. 29 letter, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan asked federal government leaders to consider immigration reform as a means of establishing a “sustainable domestic workforce pipeline.”

Specifically, LeadingAge asked lawmakers to consider a year-end legislative package that would include the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, the Health Care Workforce Resilience Act and the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act.

Vicki Hoak, president of the Home Care Association of America, told McKnight’s Home Care that the organization likewise “has been diligently working to encourage balanced immigration reform solutions that will benefit our nation’s seniors and their families.”

The association, Hoak said, has spent the past few months educating members of Congress on the challenges being created by the lack of home care workers. Specifically, she said, HCAOA supports the Ensuring Caregivers for the Aged and Disabled Act.

AHCA / NCAL noted that immigrants are a “vital” part of the long-term care workforce, adding that residents benefit from the care they provide.

“As we continue to face a historic workforce crisis, we need Congress to expand and expedite opportunities for healthcare workers who wish to live and work in the United States, especially those who are willing to care for our nation’s seniors,” the groups said. “We continue to encourage Congress to address this critically important issue by passing immigration reform legislation that will provide critical support to older adults and individuals with disabilities nationwide.”

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