Commentary

Will Restrictive Immigration Policies Cause a Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly?

As the population ages, the need for caregivers is growing, but more restrictive immigration policies such as those being promoted by the Trump administration could have a negative impact on a caregiving industry that is already facing workforce shortages.

The Supreme Court is currently considering the administration’s decision to end the program that protected young undocumented immigrants from deportation, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Among other policies, the administration has also ended Temporary Protected Status — a program that gives immigrants who can’t return to their home countries due to violence or natural disaster permission to work and live in the United States — for several groups, including immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.  In addition, another effort is to shift from “chain migration,” where people enter the country based on family ties, to immigration based on skills, which are presumably not caregiving skills but more high-tech abilities.

While there is no data on specifically how many of the affected people work as caregivers, about one in four health care workers is an immigrant, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), a nonprofit organization that studies the home care industry. That includes immigrants working as home health aides, personal care aides, and nursing assistants in home and community-based settings, nursing care facilities, assisted living facilities, group homes, intermediate care facilities, and hospitals. In addition, PHI found that immigrants constitute 31 percent of the home care workforce.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is already facing a growing shortfall of home health workers as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be more than one million new caregiver positions created by 2028, a 36 percent increase. Caregiving jobs require hard work for low pay, so finding workers to take those jobs is difficult. Turnover is already high in the industry, and health care employers complain about the lack of available workers. Losing a large portion of the workforce will only make it harder to fill the positions. Experts also worry that a shortage of home-care workers will lead to more seniors being institutionalized.

To read more about how immigration policies are affecting the caregiving industry, click here and here.

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