As record numbers of new COVID-19 infections strain America’s healthcare system, jeopardize the health and safety of vulnerable communities, and threaten our economic recovery, it is clear more than ever that immigrants are essential.
With this in mind, please see the data below (taken from our most significant Immigrants and COVID-19 Portal findings). This data highlights the many ways that immigrants are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, particularly in the healthcare and medical fields.
Our key findings include:
- As progress is made on COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution, immigrants remain a key part of America’s biomedical industry. Immigrants make up nearly a quarter of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (24.8%) and Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing (23.9%) industries, as well as 15.6% of Pharmacy and Drug Store workers. Immigrants are also behind both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccine development success stories.
- Immigrants are fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis in a variety of essential occupations. At 16.5% of the total healthcare workforce, immigrants are overrepresented in key roles: Home Health Aides (36.5% foreign-born); Physicians (28.7%); Personal Care Aides (25.1%); Nursing Assistants (22.0%); Surgeons (19.7%); Registered Nurses (15.7%); and Respiratory Therapists (13.6%).
- Undocumented immigrants and DACA-eligible individuals, who have been left out of federal relief packages, are caring for sick Americans. In 2018, there were almost 280,000 undocumented workers in the healthcare industry, including 62,600 DACA-eligible individuals. Nearly 45,000 undocumented immigrants are working as nursing assistants, and nearly 30,000 as working as home health aides.
- Immigrants are key to mitigating healthcare worker shortages in rural communities that are currently among the hardest-hit. Rural areas were already experiencing doctor shortages before the crisis — as early as 2015, there were 135 counties in 27 states with no doctors in the United States, and more than 60 percent of all counties in the United States—including 80 percent of all rural counties—do not have a single psychiatrist. Today, immigrants make up nearly one-third of psychiatrists and more than a quarter of America’s physicians.
- With the potential for added pressure on grocery stores and supermarkets over the coming months, immigrants are critical to the food supply chain. Immigrants make up more than 1 in 5 Food Sector Workers, including 28.7% of Food Processing Workers, 27.6% of Agriculture Workers, 18.2% of Food Delivery Workers, and 16.6% of Grocery and Supermarket Workers.
- Overall, immigrant workers disproportionately serve in the riskiest jobs. In 2018, there were almost 13.2 million immigrant essential workers in the United States. Together these essential workers make up almost half, or 48.3 percent of all employed immigrant workers in the country. These essential jobs are also some of the most at-risk jobs there are—and many are disproportionately held by immigrants, including meat processing workers (34.7% foreign-born) and taxi drivers and chauffeurs (45.2%), and food delivery workers (18.2%).
As we enter what may be the most difficult months of the pandemic to date, it is more important than ever that we ensure that federal relief and recovery efforts take into account all essential workers, regardless of immigration status. More data on the contributions of immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on our website https://research.newamericaneconomy.org/report/immigration-and-covid-19/