Bipartisan Federal Bill Promises to Address Barriers Faced by Immigrant and Refugee Professionals

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The Improving Opportunities for New Americans Act of 2021 was introduced on June 25, 2021 to the House by four bipartisan members — an important development in recognizing and rectifying barriers that keep immigrants and refugees from contributing their skills and know-how to the country and economy.

Upwardly Global has been proud to lead a coalition of immigrant-serving nonprofits, refugee resettlement agencies and workforce development organizations to both shape and champion this legislation.

“Immigrants are on the front lines in healthcare, technology, logistics and more at this precipitous time—and they will be vital in our efforts to rebuild our economy,” said Jina Krause-Vilmar, President and CEO of Upwardly Global. “Removing these barriers is a part of a larger effort to level the playing field for Americans of all backgrounds.”

This bipartisan bill H.R. 4179 is sponsored by Rep. John Katko (R-NY24), Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO6), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ5), and Rep. Young Kim (R-CA39). The legislation would direct the Department of Labor to conduct an inter-agency, federal study on the factors that impact U.S. employment opportunities for immigrants, refugees, and asylees with international training and education. These systemic barriers prevent an estimated two million work-authorized, college-educated new Americans from fully contributing their experience and skills to the U.S. workforce — including some 165,000 internationally-trained healthcare professionals who are currently not working in the field despite the strain on the U.S. health sector.

“A federal study on this issue holds promise to better understand the systemic, interconnected nature of these challenges and develop comprehensive solutions. We’re in a critical moment as a nation, and can no longer afford for people with essential, in-demand skills to be sidelined by these painfully persistent–yet entirely solvable–barriers,” said Krause-Vilmar.

Numerous barriers limit opportunities for immigrant and refugee professionals to rebuild careers in the U.S. If enacted, the proposed legislation would direct study in several key areas:

  • Language barriers and bias;
  • The recognition of international degrees and credentials;
  • The accessibility of re-licensing processes;
  • The availability of professional networks and supports to navigate the U.S. job search; and
  • Hiring practices and biases.

Upwardly Global is part of a dynamic network of national and local nonprofit organizations dedicated to addressing these barriers, which keep an estimated $39.4 billion in wages and $10 billion in tax receipts out of our economy each year, according to analysis from the Migration Policy Institute.

“We all benefit when our workforce is inclusive and allows individuals to fully contribute their skills,” said Krause-Vilmar. “This legislation is an important step forward in ensuring our collective strength.”

Read the press statement released June 25, 2021 by one of the co-sponsors, Rep. Jason Crow, linked here.

Read the analysis by, linked here.

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