“In recent years, thousands of American medical doctors – U.S. physicians – have been denied the right to practice medicine” – Kevin Lynn Cofounder, Doctors without Jobs
Last Tuesday, I had the distinct privilege of testifying before the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship in a hearing titled, “Is There a Doctor in the House? The Role of Immigrant Physicians in the U.S. Healthcare System.”
Before I dive into what happened, here’s a general overview of how hearings of this nature work.
First, the party that enjoys a majority in Congress gets to convene a hearing on a topic of their choice. Each committee has a chairman from the majority party and a ranking member from the minority party and together they coordinate the legislative direction of the committee. Witness testimonies are limited to five minutes but there are additional opportunities to speak afterwards during a Q&A session.
For this hearing, the majority party, the Democrats, called three witnesses to testify. The Republican Party called just one, yours truly!
With illegal border crossings at an all-time high in 2021 and deportations down 70% you can see why the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship would want to focus on anything other than the chaos at the southern border.
Using the pretext of our worsening physician shortage, the Democrats recruited witnesses that implored Congressional leaders to enhance programs that will allow immigrant doctors on J-1 and H-1B visas to remain in the U.S. permanently.
Their first witness, Kristen Harris of Harris Immigration Law had this to say:
“To help address our nation’s ongoing physician workforce shortage, we must improve the ability for U.S.-trained physicians to remain in the United States permanently. In immigration terms, this means expanding and improving their paths from nonimmigrant visa status to lawful permanent resident or ‘green card’ status.”
Next to join the chorus was Dr. David Skorton, President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). You may recall our commercial from last year in which we called out the AAMC for their callous disregard of U.S. medical school graduates and for not prioritizing them for residencies.
“AAMC supports addressing the backlog of applications for green cards by lifting per country caps that are impeding physicians entering the U.S. from certain countries. At the same time, we are concerned that limiting the aggregate number of green cards each year only shifts the problem from one country to another. This is particularly problematic for nurses who, depending on state licensure requirements, may not be eligible for H-1B specialty occupation visas and instead apply directly for immigrant visas and green cards, potentially facing decade-long wait times while overseas.”
Last to testify was Indian-born interventional nephrologist Raghuveer Kura. Dr. Kura described his immigrant journey saying he came to the U.S. because it was the “land of opportunities.” He arrived on a J-1 visa – ostensibly a “cultural exchange” visa that is now a popular tool for importing foreign-born doctors – and proceeded to spend six years completing his medical residency and then an additional five years working here on an H-1B visa. Based on his exceptional aptitude, he qualified for the coveted Einstein immigrant visa category called EB-1. There isn’t a backlog for Indian citizens in the EB-1 category, so the longest it would have taken for Dr. Kura to receive a Green Card is 1 1/2 years.
Despite Democrats’ attempts to paint Dr. Kura as having to wait 20 years for a Green Card, truth be told, he waited only one and a half years in the Green Card queue once he was sponsored.
Why misrepresent the immigration process? I believe it’s to influence policymakers to push for legislation that exempts foreign doctors from any numerical caps to H-1B visas and employment-based Green Cards. Considering all this, I don’t think it would have speeded things up for Dr. Kura. He faced no obstacles receiving a J-1, then an H-1B and then an EB-1 Green Card on time.
Perhaps this was about addressing the Indian-born doctors who don’t qualify for the EB-1 Green Cards but fall under the EB-2 — Green Cards for advanced degree holders or working as advanced professionals? There is a backlog in the EB-2 category for Indian nationals and this backlog exists because the category is overly subscribed by bad actors in the tech industry.
When my turn came and given the five-minute constraint, I limited my testimony to these three topics:
I believe I was successful in getting my message across even though Dr. Skorton took “umbrage” when I remarked that those in graduate medical education are profiteers. It’s hard to imagine how a company that earns over $94 million a year from the college application process isn’t doing well.
Later during the Q&A session, he questioned our numbers and politely requested to work with subcommittee members, staff, and our organization to “reconcile very different numbers that you’re hearing – so that we can give you something to hang your hat on.” We are happy to comply with that request and are preparing additional documents to be entered into the record.
Congressman Andy Biggs (R, CA-5) asked “Is there a reason that foreign born medical school graduates are getting taxpayer funded residencies over American doctors?” It was an important question and I replied by referencing that prior to 1980, there were surplus residencies. I wish I’d also taken the opportunity to tell him that medicine should be focused on nurturing, not profits. In a nurturing system, quality care and health outcomes are the priority, and people are prioritized over machinery. Sadly, healthcare in America has been exploited. It’s focused on money and profits. A physician is viewed as little more than a unit of labor and we strip and mine the talent from other countries and displace those here to maximize those profits.
I can assure you that we will be building upon the message we delivered on Tuesday. Our public relations campaign launching prior to the National Residency Matching Program in March and continuing through to the summer is just one example.
In closing, I want to thank the many doctors and my staff who helped prepare my testimony and prepare me to testify. I also want to thank Rep. Tom McClintock (R, CA-4) and his staff for the opportunity to tell this story. It needed to be told. Now, no one in Congress can claim to be ignorant of these doctors and their plight.
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