Immigration Policy and Aging Services: The Latest Updates

Workforce | August 01, 2021 | by Andrea Price-Carter

For the first time in years there is new hope that immigration legislation can pass through Congress. President Biden has established immigration reform as a priority, and LeadingAge is on Capitol Hill advocating for the immigration policies that can deliver workforce solutions for members across the country.

Advocating for Our IMAGINE Initiative

LeadingAge continues to share the International Migration of Aging and Geriatric Workers in Response to the Needs of Elders, IMAGINE Initiative, with members of Congress that have jurisdiction over immigration reform and workforce issues. We continue to look for opportunities to support legislative proposals to support the IMAGINE policy recommendations.

We are currently supporting two immigration legislative bills. One bill would help aging services providers create an opportunity for foreign workers to enter the U.S. legally in accord with an economic demand for employment visas. The second bill would allow essential workers to obtain a pathway to citizenship.

LeadingAge Supports the following bills:

· Citizenship for Essential Workers Act (S. 747, H.R. 1909), which establishes a mechanism for essential workers, declared during COVID-19 public health emergency, to apply for and obtain permanent resident status. It also decreases the opportunity for deportation. Health care, HCBS and direct care workers are included—as eligible essential workers. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) are the lead sponsors.

  • Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act (H.R. 4288), creates a new temporary visa “H2-C” classification that allows for non-agricultural work for “essential” employees. The visas are for positions that do not require a college degree. Aging services providers would qualify to request workers from this new visa category. This bill is also in line with the LeadingAge IMAGINE recommendation that request policy makers create a new “H2 Age” visa for temporary aging services workers. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) is the lead sponsor.

We will continue to closely monitor provisions from the Administration’s immigration bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, that provides a pathway to citizenship for approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants—including direct care workers who are classified as an essential worker. We are also exploring some potential Administrative provisions that would address the Department of Labor’s visa processing for employment-based visas, which are currently at the bottom of the list.

LeadingAge is also in a coalition, the Essential Workers Immigration Coalition, a broad-based coalition of national businesses and trade associations across industries concerned about the shortage of both semi-skilled and essential worker labor. We are in another coalition with PHI and the National Domestic Workers Alliance to focus on path to citizenship, and potential research impacting home care workers in the grey market.

What’s going on the Hill?

The House of Representatives has passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, that changes the H2-A temporary worker program for agricultural workers. Which has bipartisan support. Also, the House also passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, commonly referred to as DACA, that gives permanent resident status to long-term residents who entered the U.S. as children.

Can we expect anything this year?

Democrats are trying to include immigration legislation in the infrastructure package that will go through the reconciliation process. If language were to be supported it might include less controversial immigration policy proposals, such as: DACA, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and Citizenship for Essential Workers Act. And, quite possibly, provisions from the Administration’s immigration bill, U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The administration’s immigration reform includes key policy changes that also address family reunification, responsible and effective border management and economic growth and strengthened labor force.