President Joe Biden will deliver his 2023 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

It’s a safe bet he’ll focus on hot-button issues like our nation’s economy, the war in Ukraine and escalating gun violence. It would be nice if he also revisits a promise that helped get him elected: immigration reform.

Why should that last topic matter to long-term care providers? Two reasons.

The first is patently obvious. There is a critical shortage of caregivers in long-term care. An analysis by the American Health Care Association found that more than 300,000 jobs have been lost in this sector since the arrival of COVID-19. And it’s not like the shelves were well stocked before then.

The second is that targeted immigration reform could greatly help alleviate this ongoing – and worsening – challenge.

Under different circumstances, changes that open pathways for foreign-born caregivers might seem to be a no-brainer. Sadly, we live in times where seemingly every issue is mere fodder for a partisan divide. Small wonder so many of our elected officials appear more interested in bashing opponents than fixing problems.

It seems that for every advocate of eased immigration, there is a dug in opponent. Each side is armed with plenty of talking points.

But what’s not open for debate is whether the nation’s need for caregivers is growing by the day. It is.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare support jobs is projected to increase by 1.3 million in the coming years. That’s a lot of open positions. 

It’s hardly a stretch to suggest immigrants could greatly help fill that void. In fact, many already do help. By some estimates, more than a quarter of all frontline workers in skilled care are foreign born.

On the day he took office, Biden called for changes that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. There has been scant movement since. And now that Congress is a house divided, the odds are that much worse.

But while we dither, another nearby nation is taking action. Canada welcomed more than 400,000 new permanent residents last year. In fact, one in 10 participants in its labor force is now an immigrant. And that figure is projected to triple in less than 15 years.

So what lessons can we take here regarding immigration reform? Canada is showing that where there’s a will, there’s a way. As for the United States? Well, we’re clearly demonstrating that the opposite also happens to be true.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s.

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.