Published on Wednesday, May 24, 2006 by the
New York Times
U.S. Plan to Lure Nurses May Hurt Poor Nations
by Celia W. Dugger
As the United States runs short of nurses, senators are looking abroad. A little-
noticed provision in their immigration bill would throw open the gate to nurses and, some fear, drain them
from the world's developing countries.
The legislation is expected to pass this week, and the Senate provision, which removes the limit on the
number of nurses who can immigrate, has been largely overlooked in the emotional debate over illegal
Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who sponsored the proposal, said it was needed to help
the United States cope with a growing nursing shortage.
He said he doubted the measure would greatly increase the small number of African nurses coming to the
United States, but acknowledged that it could have an impact on the Philippines and India, which are
already sending thousands of nurses to the United States a year.
The exodus of nurses from poor to rich countries has strained health systems in the developing world,
which are already facing severe shortages of their own. Many African countries have begun to demand
compensation for the training and loss of nurses and doctors who move away.
The Senate provision, which would remain in force until 2014, contains no such compensation, and has
not stirred serious opposition in Congress. Because it is not part of the House immigration bill, a
committee from both houses would have to decide whether to include the provision on nurses if the full
Congress approves the legislation.
Public health experts in poor countries, told about the proposal in recent days, reacted with dismay and
outrage, coupled with doubts that their nurses would resist the magnetic pull of the United States, which
sits at the pinnacle of the global labor market for nurses.
Removing the immigration cap, they said, would particularly hit the Philippines, which sends more nurses