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Katko Bill to Help New Americans Find Skilled Employment Heads to the President’s Desk

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Inspired by InterFaith Works, Katko Legislation Will Eliminate Barriers Preventing Immigrants & Refugees in Central New York From Fully Utilizing Skills

Washington – US Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today announced the passage of the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act, a bill that will help legal immigrants and refugees with professional certifications from other countries fully utilize their skillsets in the United States. Rep. Katko was inspired to introduce this legislation in 2020 following conversations with InterFaith Works, a refugee resettlement agency located in Syracuse. The bill received prior approval from the US Senate and it now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. Watch Rep. Katko’s remarks on the House Floor in support of this legislation here.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 2 million immigrants with college degrees in the US are relegated to low-wage jobs or left unemployed, even when they have professional experience in understaffed fields like the healthcare sector. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as ‘brain waste’, comes at a significant cost to our economy and to immigrant families in Central New York. On an annual basis, ‘brain waste’ is estimated to result in more than $10 billion in unrealized tax receipts at the federal, state, and local levels and over $39 billion in unrealized wages for college-educated immigrants across the nation.

Many factors contribute to ‘brain waste,’ including language barriers, limits on the recognition of international degrees and credentials, the accessibility of relicensing processes, and the availability of professional networks and assistance in finding suitable employment. The Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act addresses these challenges by requiring the Department of Labor to conduct an interagency study on factors that impact employment opportunities in the US for work-eligible immigrants and refugees with professional credentials from other countries. The Department of Labor is also required to issue policy recommendations to Congress to help these individuals unlock their full potential and find high quality jobs in critical sectors of our economy.

“Three years ago, I heard from Interfaith Works of Central New York about legal immigrants in our community who have valuable professional backgrounds but consistently experience underemployment or unemployment due to arbitrary barriers,” said Rep. Katko. “This trend puts the American Dream out of reach for countless families and has a detrimental impact on our economy, costing billions of dollars in unrealized wages each year. That’s why I was proud to introduce the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act, and I am excited to see it pass the House and head to the President’s desk. This bill will enable new Americans to fully utilize their skillsets and is especially important in the midst of a nationwide workforce crisis.”

“At least 2 million New Americans with college degrees from their home countries are unable to work in their field or are unemployed due to barriers in licensing, acceptance of their credentials, or prejudice. These refugees and immigrants often enter our country with the same hopes and aspirations for starting their lives than many of our ancestors had, and America is better served when we utilize the strengths that each of us has to contribute,” said Beth A. Broadway , President & CEO of InterFaith Works of CNY, a refugee resettlement agency located in Syracuse. “InterFaith Works applauds Congressman Katko’s long standing efforts to study this issue through the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act which will put forward solutions that will reduce the barriers to full employment, and we are excited to see it pass the House. Communities will be stronger due to this legislation and the ability to utilize all available talent without unnecessary barriers.”

“Ensuring that immigrants and refugees who hold credentials from other countries have access to meaningful opportunities to meet their career and educational goals in the US is fundamental to creating an inclusive, equitable economy—and a vibrant, resilient workforce,” said Esther Benjamin, CEO and Executive Director of World Education Services (WES). “With more than 45 years of experience providing credential evaluations in the US we know that too often credentials earned in another country are not fully recognized. WES is proud to support the Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act.”

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