What Is The Role Of Immigrants In The US COVID-19 Response?

An ongoing research seeks to reveal the role of immigrants in America’s fight against COVID-19. 

What are the contributions of the immigrants in America’s fight and response to the COVID-19 pandemic? This is the question the New American Economy (NAE) wants to answer in their on-going research, Immigration and COVID-19.

Here are some of their key findings.

Immigrants and the pandemic response

According to NAE, a huge percentage (16.5%) of the U.S. healthcare workers are immigrants.

Immigrant women, in particular, are important in America’s pandemic response. They make up a considerable share of America’s nursing aides (1 in 5 workers), registered nurses (1 in 8 workers), and personal care aides (1 in 5 workers).

Some states are heavily reliant on immigrants in their fight against COVID-19. In New York, one-third of all healthcare workers are immigrants. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, they account for more than half of all the health aides.

Based on NAE’s findings, immigrants are twice as likely to fill lesser-skilled home aide positions than the native-born. At the same time, they are twice as likely to fill in high-skilled positions, for instance, physicians and surgeons.

It is also estimated that across all the 15 largest metro areas in the  U.S., at least 20% of the nurses, physicians and surgeons are foreign-born.

Immigrants in other essential industries

In other key industries, the participation of immigrants is equally significant.

In the food sector, 21.6% of all the workers are immigrants. They are highly represented in industries like food processing (28.7%), agriculture (27.6%), food delivery (18.2%), as well as in groceries and supermarkets (16.6%).

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In the biomedical industry, Nearly a quarter (24.8%) of the workers in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing are immigrants. A huge share (23.9%) also work in the production of medical equipment and supplies.

Another observation based on the NAE data is the disproportionate representation of immigrant workers in high-risk jobs:

  • Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs (45.2%)
  • Meat Processing Workers (34.7%)
  • Physicians (27.9%)
  • Surgeons (25.4%)
  • Nursing Assistants (23.2%)

Among the 1.2 million immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, NAE approximates half to be working in essential industries.

For more data and for further reading, you can read NAE’s research which is regularly being updated.

Filling the gaps

NAE data also revealed that all 50 states have been experiencing a shortage of workers willing to fill in healthcare jobs.

This is particularly problematic for rural communities which are in need of the greatest aid. The 76.4 million baby boomers in America entering their elderly years in the succeeding years is another area of concern.

As we can see in the data above, immigrants have played a huge role in filling these vacancies in the healthcare sector.

Improving our immigration system, then, would help not only in promoting equality and upholding human rights — it would also be beneficial in equipping our healthcare systems enough to face crisis situations like the ongoing pandemic.

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