A little-known provision pushed by the giant hospital chains will throw open our borders to foreign nurses, allowing the hospital industry to recruit low-paid trained nurses from the Philippines, India, China and Africa. These foreign nurses make less than $2,000 a year back home and can easily be lured here to take less than the going rate of American professionals.
Already, some 14,000 nurses from abroad are given work visas to enter the country each year, but the Senate bill, carried by Kansas Republican Sam Brownback, simply removes the cap on these visas, shouting: "Y'all come!" Not only does this corporate-sponsored approach drain medical pros from countries that desperately need them, but it also guts the middle-class pay structure and opportunities for homegrown nursing professionals.
The hospital lobby wails that there's a nursing shortage here, so there's no choice but to go outside our borders. Hogwash. There's a shortage because hospitals won't pay what this highly professional job warrants -- and because Congress refuses to provide the funding needed to educate more American nurses. Last year alone, some 150,000 qualified applicants were rejected by nursing schools because of inadequate facilities and a lack of faculty to teach them.
What we have here is raw corporate greed in action, writing bad immigration policy in order to gain cheap foreign labor. Instead, let's invest in domestic nursing programs that'll build America's middle class, while also improving the quality of our health care. For more information, call the American Nurses Association at (800) 274-4262.
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