Among the many problems facing the US healthcare system, a critical shortage of nurses for our aging population is amongst the worst. The inability to fill nursing jobs has led to an influx of foreign-born nurses, growing from 9% of the healthcare workforce in 1980 to 14% in 2010.
Michigan, in particular, relies on nurses from just across the border in Canada to fill crucial specialized nursing positions in their hospitals. Unfortunately, the new Trump immigration policies may be putting American healthcare in jeopardy by prohibiting Canadian advance practice nurses and nurse anesthetists from qualifying for working visas in the US.
According to the Canadian national broadcaster, CBC News:
Staff at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital heard reports of nurses unable to renew their working visas. Last week, a new Canadian hire at Henry Ford tried to go to work, but was turned away at the Windsor-Detroit border.
The nurses have been told that they now will need to apply for the more difficult and expensive to obtain H1B visas, a category under the NAFTA trade agreement that applies for more specialized employment.
Immigration lawyers are questioning the motives for this new policy. Marc Topoleski, a lawyer for the Henry Ford Hospital said:
“All of the immigration executive orders and all the things being rolled out have been focused on national security first, and this is clearly not an issue of national security whatsoever.”
Given the national nursing shortage, it’s hard to imagine that these immigrant nurses are taking any opportunities away from Americans. Yet the new policies not only undermine the livelihoods of these dedicated Canadian nurses but threatens the health of American citizens who won’t have sufficient nursing resources available to them.
“These specialty nurses are hard to find. There’s more positions than there are people available,” Topoleski said. “They’re coming here to help our patients. I just don’t understand what the policy goal is by doing something like this, it just makes absolutely no sense.”
Isn’t it ironic that Michigan, one of the swing states that helped put Trump in the White House, will now see their health victimized by their chosen candidate’s own policies? No one deserves this, no matter who they voted for.