The Senator also highlighted her legislation to allow doctors trained in the U.S. to work in underserved communities
WASHINGTON – At a Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on the American Dream and Promise Act, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) emphasized strong support for the legislation, noting that for many Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients from Minnesota and across the country, “the U.S. is the only home they have ever known.”
Klobuchar also highlighted the importance of passing her legislation with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) to allow doctors trained in the U.S. to remain in the country if they practice medicine in underserved communities, which in turn would improve health care for families across the nation while retaining U.S.-trained and educated talent.
Senator Klobuchar: Thank you so much, Senator Padilla, for your great leadership and for doing this hearing, and also thank you, of course, to our chair. Minnesota is actually home to thousands and thousands of Dreamers. We also have a really strong history of TPS people because Somalia was designated for TPS. We have the biggest number of Somalians in the country, and we have fought for that to be extended for all of our, of course, TPS groups, both in my state and across the country. Like Dreamers, for many TPS and DED recipients, the U.S. is the only home they have ever known and I am a strong supporter of this bill. So along those lines I just want to clear up one thing at the beginning, Mr. Rodriguez, when we are talking about Dreamers and people with TPS and DED status, are we talking about people seeking asylum at the southern border by any means?
The Honorable Leon Rodriguez: No, and actually I had meant to talk about that in my opening statement. No, those are distinct. While they are different kinds of humanitarian relief, we are talking about distinct pathways to that relief.
Klobuchar: And would any of the recent arrivals after January 1st at the border be eligible for the pathway to citizenship provided by the American Dream and Promise Act?
Rodriguez: No, they would not.
Klobuchar: Okay and is providing a pathway to citizenship to Dreamers and people of TPS and DED going to slow down the administration's efforts at the border to either reunite families or other things, would that be a deterrent to some of the work that’s being done there?
Rodriguez: No, not at all. In fact, you know, I'm a former federal and state prosecutor, and I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, at the height of the crack epidemic, and I know one thing we need to do in the law enforcement world is to prioritize where we are going to focus our -- not only our prosecutorial efforts but our administrative resources and how we are going to focus those. And so part of what we are doing here is taking the focus away from people like Dr. Bernal and Mr. Ponthieux and really focusing them on illegal border crossing, and focusing them on criminal conduct and not places where those energies don't need to be.
Klobuchar: Okay. Very good. I wanted to just detour to something a little related here, the Conrad 30 program. I am the lead sponsor of that bill but we also have Senator Collins, Rosen, Ernst, King, Thune, Merkley, Capito, Blunt, and I hope our colleagues will consider sponsoring it. This is the one that helps underserved areas, particularly rural areas, for doctors to complete their postgraduate medical training in the U.S. and practicing in the U.S. after they’ve completed that training rather than having to leave the country for two years, which is just nuts given that we need these doctors in the rural areas, and of course, there's other provisions that we’re are looking at for nurses and the like. Could you talk about why this is important to this program?
Rodriguez: Yeah, a significant part of my current law practice actually is with health care providers of different types. We do have shortages at many, many different levels of the healthcare industry, and not only shortages of doctors in certain places, which I think is what Conrad 30 is trying to address, but also other types of health care providers. Nurses, in particular, thank you Mr. Ponthieux, is one particular area of shortage so I think this is a very important step for the American people.
Klobuchar: Okay. Thank you, and thank you for that segue to Mr. Ponthieux. Mr. Ponthieux, your wife is also a nurse serving your community in Florida, your 20-year-old son is in the Army, and your daughter is a middle school honors student. How has living with this constant uncertainty affected your family and maybe prevented you from making investments that you normally would have made?
Mr. Rony Ponthiuex: Thank you, Senator. Thank you for the question. I would like to say that after I finish my registered nurse license, I plan to go to the university to pursue a career to become a nurse practitioner, but because of this uncertainty, the possibility of being deported, that told me I could not go further. I even went to the hospital because of high blood pressure and I am on medication at this time. Even as I am saving lives and taking care of patients, I also have to take care of myself because now I have high blood pressure. So if you vote yes for this bill, I already wish to go to the university to pursue this career, to go for a nurse practitioner. I would like to become a nurse practitioner to serve this country because I feel that this is my calling. Even sometimes nurses call in sick because they are afraid of the COVID. I was always there and I pray to god to help me, not only to give the medication to take care of the patients but to save their lives. Now I will be able with this bill to continue to go to school for a higher education and be able to take care of my family. Thank you.
Klobuchar: Thank you. So beautifully said. So beautifully said. I want to thank you and also Mr. Mejia – I’ll send you a question on the record but thank you both for being here and all of the witnesses. Thank you.
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