[Congressional Record: May 7, 2002 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
J-1 VISA WAIVER
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the
gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I come to the House floor this evening to
express my opposition to the termination of the J-1 visa waiver
Currently, foreign medical graduates are allowed to come to the
United States on a J-1 visa for up to 3 years to train in accredited
residency programs in rural underserved parts of the country. The
impetus behind accepting physicians from other countries, foreign
medical graduates, and training them in American residency positions is
to attract physicians to provide care to the medically underserved who
live in rural areas where doctors trained in the United States do not
want to practice.
Mr. Speaker, the law states that once a residency program is
complete, the doctors are required to return to their country of origin
for 2 years. However, the government has the authority to waive the
requirements if it is in the United States' interest to keep the
physician here. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development
Branch was thrilled by the waiver because it provided the opportunity
to retain medical trainees who would continue to serve in typically
medically underserved communities in rural America.
But, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, in the past few weeks, the USDA has
indicated an intention to stop granting such permission under the J-1
visa waiver program. Although it is clear there is a lack of sufficient
health care in rural America, and although it is clear that qualified
physicians from abroad are willing to come to the U.S. to serve in
these medically lacking communities, nevertheless, the government has
proposed to end this program entirely.
Mr. Speaker, since September 11, national security concerns have
taken hold and new extensive background checks have been put in place.
The USDA claims the extra money required to implement background checks
on foreign medical graduates would be too burdensome and therefore the
program must end. Currently, there are approximately a little more than
80 applications for the waiver that are still pending, and after these
applications have been processed, the program is slated to end.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that there is not justification for the
cessation of the J-1 visa waiver program. Terminating this program and
preventing qualified physicians from serving communities in America
that lack sufficient health care does our country a great injustice.
Mr. Speaker, stopping the granting of these waivers is unacceptable,
and I would ask that the USDA reconsider, and that we do whatever we
can, myself and my colleagues, to prevent this valuable program from
ending because it is so important to rural America and to the health
care of Americans in rural areas.
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