WASHINGTON, DC — A new report from FWD.us shows that immigrants represent a substantial and critical part of America’s essential COVID-19 workforce combating the deadly coronavirus pandemic and helping our communities respond from this crisis. Immigrant essential workers comprise nearly 1 in 5 individuals in the total U.S. essential workforce, numbering nearly 23 million people. More than five million are undocumented people who face the risk of deportation, according to the new report.
The data is crystal clear: With their unique and essential work skills and their integral role in U.S. communities, undocumented immigrant essential workers are vital to the COVID-19 economic recovery. Most have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, live with millions of U.S. citizen household members, and are already contributing to their communities and helping to support their families.
Among the frontline workers serving our country is Jesus Contreras, a Houston-based paramedic and DACA recipient. He is one of the estimated nearly 1 million Dreamers who works in essential industries, making up nearly half of the total Dreamer population. In Florida, Rony Ponthieux, a registered nurse with Temporary Protected Status who arrived in the U.S. from Haiti over 20 years ago, cares for coronavirus-infected patients. He worries that without a pathway to citizenship, he could be separated from his U.S.-born children. And in California, truck driver Jesus Perlera puts in long days transporting grocery products to warehouses and supermarkets while worrying about the prospect of deportation.
The data illustrates our country’s moral and economic responsibility to provide legal certainty to this vital population, who are risking their lives every single day to provide essential services and save countless American lives.
“Our nation’s long-term recovery from COVID-19 is directly linked to a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumeted immigrants. In total, immigrants of various statuses make up 23 million people within the American essential workforce. Of that, 5.2 million people are undocumented and face an uncertain future in the country they’ve called home for decades. Ensuring all of these individuals can fully contribute to their families and communities is not only a moral obligation, but is vital to our ability to continue to respond, and to recover, from COVID-19,” said FWD.us President Todd Schulte. “It is our moral imperative to set our country on a path that keeps families together and approaches our economic recovery with commonsense immigration policies centered on a pathway to citizenship. President-elect Biden must prioritize this on day one of the new administration.”
Undocumented immigrant essential workers, and other individuals living with temporary status, face an uncertain future in the United States, particularly given the onslaught of executive orders and policy changes made by the outgoing Trump Administration. Failing to address the lack of legal status of undocumented immigrants endangers their lives, as well as the health and lives of Americans who rely on these essential workers every day. Importantly, it is also a moral failure to call undocumented immigrants “essential” while failing to provide them with legal status.
Congress must act urgently to create a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, including the 5 million undocumented essential workers who are fighting this pandemic alongside all Americans. Given their personal sacrifice during the pandemic, it is the least Congress and President-elect Biden can do in helping them fight the pandemic alongside all Americans.