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NCOA Brief Calls for Immigration Reform to Address Direct-Care Workforce Shortage

April 17, 2014

A National Council on Aging (NCOA) brief on immigration reform released on April 7 recommends immigration reform as a means to help stabilize and strengthen the direct-care workforce.

The brief, Immigration Reform: Key Issues for People with Disabilities and Older Adults, highlights the increasing demand for direct-care workers and reports that a “severe shortage of future workers is projected.”

Immigration reform “is part of the solution to addressing this projected shortfall of workers,” argues NCOA Director of Long-Term Services and Supports Joe Caldwell, who wrote the brief.

About 26 percent of the direct-care workforce is foreign-born and a portion is “unauthorized,” Caldwell writes.

THE NCOA brief recommends providing a pathway to citizenship for direct-care workers to:

  • help stabilize the workforce
  • ensure protections for workers, and
  • improve the quality of services and supports.

According to the brief, legal status would allow, for example:

  • improved background checks of workers
  • ability of workers to drive legally
  • opportunities for training and career advancement, and
  • development of registries to assist individuals in locating workers.

Additionally, a Senate immigration reform bill passed in 2013 (S.744) would establish a new “W” nonimmigrant visa for low-skilled workers. This visa would permit a “modest” number of individuals to enter the U.S. for a limited period to work for registered employers in occupations with labor shortages, such as direct care. Such a step would help to address the direct-care workforce shortage, according to the brief.

— by Deane Beebe

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