Misplaced Attack on Filipino Nurses 04 May 2012
Former Washington DC Mayor and currently council member, Marion Barry decried the increasing number of nurse immigrants in U.S. hospitals, singling out the apparent disparity in the great number of Filipino nurses currently staffing such care facilities vis-à-vis local nurses, as somehow a testament to what he sees is a “bad” situation.
In his attempt to encourage schools/hospitals to hire more local teachers/nurses who are “residents of the District of Columbia”, he made disparaging comments against Filipino teachers/nurses that are offensive and xenophobic, succeeding only in dividing his constituents and reinforcing the stereotype that immigrants are to be feared, that they are out to “steal” U.S. jobs, that they are a threat to Americans’ economic well-being and way of life.
As a public official, Barry should have been more discriminating in his public pronouncements.
It is true that most U.S. hospitals/school districts have immigrant health care workers/teachers in their employ. It is true, too, that Filipino nurses/teachers fill up quite a significant number in these facilities. What Barry fails to understand or acknowledge is that Filipinos have always filled the shortages of nurses and teachers in the United States for many years now.
Immigrating through an offer of employment by a U.S. company is not as easy as filling up a job application. The U.S. employer has to go through the rigorous process of petitioning all these nurses/teachers ensuring that no U.S. citizens or residents are affected by the hiring of all these nurses/teachers. Necessary safeguards have been put in place by the U.S. Department of Labor to protect the interests of the local U.S. residents. U.S. immigration policies are crafted to ensure that the hiring of foreign nationals would not adversely affect local residents.
Filipino health care workers have contributed significantly to the health care industry specifically in the provision of care to those who need it most and in the most critical time when there was a severe shortage of these nurses.
The same is true of Filipino teachers. If there are available and qualified local employees to fill up open teaching positions, the districts will not have to go through the rigorous process of applying for labor certifications and immigration petitions for Filipino teachers. In fact, as a matter of policy, when teachers’ services are no longer needed, their temporary visas are not extended or are revoked by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Contrary to the logical inferences that could be made from Barry’s uninformed and offensive commentaries, there is no displacement of local workers by the hiring of Filipino teachers and nurses.
The registered nurse is still categorized as a shortage occupation by the U.S. Department of Health. This position still falls under the Schedule A occupations where the need for recruitment of native born nurses need not be documented. Registered nurses may apply directly for an immigrant visa petition.
Unlike in the last decade, registered nurses no longer occupy a priority in terms of immigrating to the United States. There is now a long wait for nurses under the third employment category. The delay is not attributed to the fact that there is no longer a shortage but rather it is a result of “oversubscription” of visas in this category resulting in retrogression. Filipino nurses who are in line for immigrant visa petitions may still have the opportunity to receive their working visas or green cards when their priority date becomes current.
(Tancinco may be reached at email@example.com or at 887 7177 or 721 1963)