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Migrant workers specializing in home-based care might see some immigration benefits in the near future

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Many migrant workers find growth opportunities in the booming market of home-based care. But restrictive immigration policies make it difficult for recruiters to keep up with their staffing needs.

For the past few years, home-based care agencies have been going through a staffing crisis, a crisis that COVID-19 made even more pressing. And most Americans don’t want to do this type of work, so the industry is mostly comprised of migrant workers.

The restrictive immigration policies set in place during the Trump administration, only slightly improved during the current presidential term, make it very difficult to recruit this pool of experienced and dedicated foreign workers. To ease this situation, many agencies have been trying to keep retain their workers and keep them from entering other industries.

But given the growing need for this kind of caregivers everywhere, some crucial changes to immigration policies are needed to keep up with the demand.

The home-based care industry crisis explained

Current immigration policies make it very hard to recruit enough caregivers to meet the needs of Americans. According to Kristie De Peña, VP for policy and Director of Immigration at the Niskanen Center, one of the main issues is the lack of awareness.

“Americans don’t want to do this work for a number of reasons, and so it often falls to foreign workers. This has sort of been this slow-growing emergency that we have an opportunity to prepare for, but it doesn’t seem like it’s not capturing enough attention.”

De Peña said.

Reports from PHI (a research and policy change advocacy group specializing in the direct care industry) suggest that over 7 million more care workers will be needed by 2029. And at least half or more of those workers will need to work in the home-based care market.

Given the sheer number of workers needed to satisfy the home-based care needs of the American population, domestic hiring alone simply won’t be enough. And already more than 25% of home care workers are migrant workers.

An abandoned solution for migrant workers

The amount of migrant workers in home-based care has risen steadily since the 80’s, but until recently, there was a policy that allowed migrants specializing in this line of work to get work visas. ‘Home health aide’ was specifically mentioned as a qualified occupation for potential immigrants.
In 2009, an under-the-radar policy change removed this qualifying occupation from the visa program, hugely complicating things for the care industry and migrant workers willing to work in the US. Changing politics played a big role in the removal of this benefit, but also did a lack of awareness of it.

“It was kind of underutilized and so it got cast aside. The underutilization of it wasn’t reflective of the need, it was just reflective of people not knowing about it. It just wasn’t a widely known program. So Congress said, ‘Okay, well, if it’s not being used, then we’re going to get rid of it.”

De Peña commented.

If this program was revived, this would immediately help alleviate the home-based care providers and demand. Other fixes to this issue could be creating new programs similar to the Au Pair program, which allows migrant workers to care for children in the US, but oriented toward seniors or people with disabilities. In any case, according to most experts in this field, this issue will only exacerbate in the next few years, and not tackling it now might mean a continued crisis in the sector for many years to come.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at (281) 606-0800!

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