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News Release
Judd Gregg, US Senator for New Hampshire

Thursday, June 21, 2007
Contact: Erin Rath/Laena Fallon

Gregg Calls on Senate Negotiators to Address National Shortage of Qualified Nurses by Including Provision in Immigration Measure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) today called on four key Senate negotiators to S. 1639, the immigration bill, to allow a vote that would give higher consideration to qualified nurses seeking green cards in order to relieve a severe shortage of qualified nurses in New Hampshire and nationally.

“The quality of health care available to New Hampshire citizens and all Americans is directly related to the presence of qualified nurses in our doctors’ offices and hospitals,” stated Senator Gregg. “The shortage of nurses available in our country is reaching crisis levels, and any effort to fix our broken immigration system should not worsen this problem. Rather, we should improve the immigration bill currently in the Senate to ensure that hospitals can recruit qualified nurses and continue to provide quality care.”

A copy of the letter Senator Gregg sent today to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA), and SJC Members Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is attached below.

Dear Senators Leahy, Specter, Kennedy, and Kyl:

I am writing this letter to draw attention to a serious problem that should be addressed in S. 1639, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that is scheduled for consideration in the coming days. As you continue reviewing possible floor amendments to this legislation during the upcoming Senate debate, I ask that you consider improvements to the merit-based point system that would help address our nation’s nurse shortage.

As you may know, a recent survey by the American Hospital Association reported that there were 116,000 nurse vacancies last December, and government estimates indicate that our nation will face a shortfall of one million nurses by 2020. This growing shortage of nurses is having a serious impact on hospitals in New Hampshire and other states, potentially affecting quality of care, and forcing hospitals to recruit increasingly more nurses from other countries.

Throughout the debate on immigration reform, I have been a strong advocate for aligning our immigration policies with our nation’s priorities. It is for this reason that I have fought for increased visas for highly skilled individuals – in particular, H-1B visas – and for proposals that would shift a greater proportion of green cards to those who have the educational background and work experience that best meets our needs. I also support a merit-based point system and commend your efforts to include this in S. 1639 as a way to attract the best and brightest from around the world.

That said, I believe that the merit-based point system proposed in S. 1639 should be improved. Among other things, I believe that the system’s allocation of points unfairly disadvantages certain highly skilled individuals – including qualified registered nurses – that are desperately needed in our country. For instance, S. 1639 would give a substantial amount of points for simply working on a farm and picking vegetables, but it would not award enough points for someone who is a highly trained nurse and is critical for our nation’s health care system. The point system therefore could exacerbate the nurse shortage crisis here in the United States by undermining our hospitals’ ability to recruit nurses from overseas.

There are a number of ways that S. 1639 could be improved to address the growing shortage of nurses. One idea would give qualified nurses the same amount of additional points as those who work in a “specialty occupation” and have gained work experience here with a U.S. firm. This concept would ensure that nurses have a fair shot at accruing enough points to obtain a visa. I also believe that this proposal would make sure that we do not worsen an already serious problem facing our health care system and hospitals in my state.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

# # #

Erin Rath

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Judd Gregg

phone (202) 224-3324

fax (202) 228-0399