On August 14, Rep. John Katko [R-NY-24] and Rep. Ben McAdams [D-UT-4] introduced H.R.8046, the Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2020. This bill, if passed, would direct the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to conduct an interagency study on factors that impact U.S. employment opportunities for immigrants and refugees with professional credentials from other countries. The legislation is the first bipartisan proposal in Congress examining well documented barriers to employment for immigrants and refugees with international credentials. Currently, over two million people—23.4%—of college-educated immigrants and refugees in the U.S. are either under- or unemployed. In the healthcare sector alone, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 165,000 immigrants and refugees with health-related degrees obtained outside the U.S. who are either unemployed or currently working in jobs that do not match their skillset. This underutilization of vital skills and experience has devastating effects on individuals, local communities, and the U.S. economy.
“The Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2020 Act is an important step forward in removing the barriers that impede newcomers to the United States from fully utilizing their skills and training,” said Esther Benjamin, CEO and Executive Director of World Education Services (WES). “As an organization dedicated to ensuring that immigrants and refugees have opportunities to integrate into the workforce and economy, WES commends Representative Katko’s leadership in introducing this critical legislation and looks forward to working together to move the bill forward.”
A primary barrier to employment among immigrant and refugee community members with international credentials is the lack of recognition of their international training and professional experience. Recognizing the need to evaluate relicensing processes, H.R.8046 calls on federal leadership to develop substantive policy solutions to assist immigrants and refugees with international credentials as they seek to reenter their professions in the U.S.
Under the proposed bill, the DOL would conduct an interagency study of obstacles to adequate employment for immigrant and refugee professionals by analyzing several areas:
- International professional credentials and experiences of under- and unemployed immigrants and refugees
- Barriers preventing immigrants and refugees from fully utilizing their professional experience in the U.S.
- Existing resources that support immigrants and refugees in using their international qualifications in the U.S.
The bill calls on the DOL to issue recommendations to remove barriers and open pathways for immigrants and refugees to fully contribute their skills and training in the U.S. Jina Krause-Vilmar, CEO of Upwardly Global, points to the critical role immigrant and refugee professionals can play in the U.S. economy and recovery. “As we reopen our economy and rebuild our communities, we must ensure that all Americans—including new Americans—can fully contribute their skills,” she explains. “From multilingual abilities to resilience to experience in STEM fields, work-authorized immigrants and refugees bring incredible talent and potential to our workforce.” The bill calls on the DOL to issue recommendations to remove barriers and open pathways for immigrants and refugees to fully contribute their skills and training in the U.S.
The Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2020 has received support from 24 organizations including Upwardly Global, WES, the National Immigration Forum, New American Economy, the National Skills Coalition, International Rescue Committee, the National Partnership for New Americans, the LIBRE Initiative, Coalition on Adult Basic Education, Church World Service, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. As endorsements for H.R.8046 continue to grow, WES applauds this bipartisan effort to recognize the immense contributions immigrants and refugees make to the U.S. and looks forward to advancing the bill.