In Pair of Letters, Bennet Condemns Executive Order and Demands Administration Expedite Visa Petitions for Urgently Needed Health Care Professionals
Denver – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet sent two letters to the Trump Administration about the administration’s harmful immigration policies. In the first letter, Bennet urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf to fast-track visas to meet the surging demand for health care professionals due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The Trump Administration’s announcement of a temporary halt to immigration is the opposite of what is necessary for the health and safety of our country at this time,” wrote Bennet in the first letter. “The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and [the Department of State] must immediately work to expedite the processing of visa petitions of health care professionals and provide them with more flexibility to practice in specialties or locations where they are most needed.”
In the second letter, Bennet called on President Donald Trump to reverse the executive order he issued Wednesday suspending the issuance of green cards to the United States for at least 60 days. Current regulations may force health care workers to suspend this work and even leave the country if their visa expires. Additionally, individuals who hold H-1B visas often cannot practice outside of specialties and locations designated by their sponsor. Each of these regulations undermines the country’s health care workforce when it is already under tremendous strain due to the pandemic.
“The use of a global public health crisis to promote an anti-immigration agenda…goes against the immigrant tradition upon which this country was built,” wrote Bennet in the second letter. “More than twenty-five percent of all doctors and seventeen percent of all health care workers are immigrants…Instead of honoring our nation’s proud immigrant heritage, the Administration has placed countless lives at risk in the interest of amplifying its anti-immigration agenda.”
Wednesday’s executive order follows a broader set of anti-immigrant policies from the Trump Administration. Previously, the administration had suspended routine visa processing at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad, closed the borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel, and postponed court dates for migrants in the Migrant Protection Protocol program. Over the first two weeks of April, the U.S. deported almost 3,000 individuals, even as the U.S. continued to have the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world.
Letter Urging Administration to Expedite Visa Petitions for Frontline Health Care Professionals
Dear Secretary Pompeo and Acting Secretary Wolf:
I write to urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with the Department of State (DoS), to address visa concerns that health care practitioners are facing who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. These individuals are working or trying to work on the frontlines of the current Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Trump Administration’s announcement of a temporary halt to immigration is the opposite of what is necessary for the health and safety of our country at this time. The United States is desperately in need of health care workers. The existing shortage is only exacerbated by the increased risk that workers face as they provide care for individuals with COVID-19. However, health care professionals who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and are working or attempting to support our response to the virus are encountering significant administrative roadblocks. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and DoS must immediately work to expedite the processing of visa petitions of health care professionals and provide them with more flexibility to practice in specialties or locations where they are most needed. The current regulations may force health care workers to suspend providing critical services and leave the country if their visa expires due to terminations or inability to work due to contracting COVID-19 while on the front lines. Additionally, individuals who hold H-1B visas are often unable to practice outside of specialties and locations designated by their sponsor. Each of these regulations prohibit front line workers from serving to their fullest capacity while undergoing increased stress and anxiety in an already unprecedented crisis.
America’s health care workers should practice to their highest capacity while feeling secure in their positions. I ask that you immediately address visas restrictions affecting health care workers’ nonimmigrant visas. The U.S. must ensure flexibility on where and how they practice and eliminate the risk of visa expirations and unlawful status while serving on the frontlines.
Thank you for your urgent attention to this important matter.
Letter Urging President Trump to Reverse Executive Order Suspending Issuance of Green Cards
Dear President Trump:
I write to request that the Administration reverse the Executive Order that will suspend the issuance of green cards. Furthermore, your Administration must halt all anti-immigration policies that are harmful to public health and safety as the U.S. struggles to fight against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The use of a global public health crisis to promote an anti-immigration agenda is deeply problematic and goes against the immigrant tradition upon which this country was built. It also won’t undo the Administration’s failures to address the pandemic earlier and more aggressively. Further limitations on immigration will only bring insecurity to immigrant families resulting in greater uncertainty and economic harm to the U.S.
Most importantly, these policies will not help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Foreign-born individuals make up a large percentage of those who are on the front lines in this pandemic. More than twenty-five percent of all doctors and seventeen percent of all health care workers are immigrants. Nearly forty percent of all medical/life scientists in this country, many of whom are researching the remedies to the very virus that has caused this pandemic, are foreign-born. Additionally, over thirty percent of all agricultural workers, seventeen percent of all grocery and supermarket workers, and over eighteen percent of all food delivery workers are foreign-born. These individuals deserve our warmest praise and support, not policies that will incite fear and harm their families, friends, or communities. We shouldn’t be making it harder for them to be with their loved ones during this difficult time.
Instead of honoring our nation’s proud immigrant heritage, the Administration has placed countless lives at risk in the interest of amplifying its anti-immigration agenda. The Administration has already suspended routine visa processing at its consulates and embassies abroad, closed borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel, and postponed court dates for migrants in the Migrant Protection Protocol program. During the first 11 days of April, the U.S. deported almost 3,000 individuals, despite having the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths of any nation.
The Administration now wants to unnecessarily prevent more immigrants from obtaining legal status. The rhetoric the Administration used to announce plans for its new policy has increased fear in our communities. Spreading fear won’t protect us from this virus but universal testing and sufficient personal protective equipment, supplies, and other public health support will. In the midst of this pandemic we should be coming together as a nation by embracing immigrants who make up a large percentage of our health care workforce and are a driving force behind our country’s innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and economic development. I urge the Administration to reverse the Executive Order and put its focus and energy on a national strategy that will ensure the best possible conditions for the safety and wellbeing of all people in the United States. Now is the time to come together and use all of the best talent and minds to resolve the unprecedented challenges we face as a nation.Sincerely,