Immigrants are on the frontlines fighting coronavirus

Farmworkers harvest zucchini on April 1, 2020, in Florida City, Florida.

Although the details of Trump’s plans remain unclear, we know much about the role immigrants played on the front lines during the pandemic.

Foreign-born workers make up about 17% of the American civilian workforce. But they represent an even larger share of the workforce in many jobs that are essential to fighting the virus and keeping the country afloat, according to recent analysis from the Migration Policy Institute. Immigrants are also likely to be disproportionately affected by layoffs, the institute said.

Here are some key statistics on immigrant workers in the United States from this analysis and why these numbers are important right now:

The Migration Policy Institute used 2018 census data to calculate the numbers.

Their estimate: 6,259,000 immigrants occupy front-line jobs in the fight against the coronavirus, notably in health care and social services; stories of grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations; manufacturing of food, medicine, soap and cleaning agents; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; bus, metro and taxi drivers; postal service workers; and scientific research and development.

1 of 4 in the United States doctors are immigrants

In the United States, 29% of all doctors are immigrants. It is a significant number. And there is more in history than this data point does not capture. In many rural communities, immigrant doctors provide essential medical care.

38% caregivers at home are immigrants

The need for home health care is increasing as the American population ages. And a large percentage of home health workers are immigrants. Experts have warned that if immigrants lose their work permits, the shortage of home care workers will become even more severe.

22% American food industry workers are immigrants

Immigrants play a “disproportionate role in food production”, according to MPI, and represent a much larger share of workers in certain occupations.

Almost a third of the country’s agricultural workers were born abroad, according to census data. But experts warn that official data probably do not provide a complete picture of all agricultural workers in the country, as many are undocumented and are not necessarily included in these counts.

But the official figures that exist show that immigrants play a big role in the distribution of food on American tables.

37% workers in the meat processing industry are immigrants

Given the increasing number of coronavirus outbreaks that we have seen in meat processing facilities, this is an important statistic to keep in mind.

35% agricultural production workers are immigrants

Some of them recently told CNN they were afraid to go to work because of the coronavirus, but felt they had no other choice.

483,000 immigrants work in grocery stores

That represents about 16% of the nearly 3 million food retailers, according to MPI.

69% California farm workers are immigrants

California produces two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and one-third of the country’s vegetables.

34% metro, bus and taxi drivers are immigrants

They ensure that other essential workers can access their jobs, even if their own health is at risk.

6 million immigrants work in industries that lay off large numbers of workers

According to MPI, immigrants are “also overrepresented in some of the non-frontline industries that are devastated as more people follow social distancing guidelines and more states and cities are issuing shelter orders on the spot.”

These industries include accommodation and food services; non-essential detail; personal services and private households; arts and entertainment; construction services; non-essential transportation and travel assistance.

For example, 38% of chefs and cooks and 52% of maids and housekeepers are immigrants.

Migrant workers often have less access to relief and public safety nets. And according to MPI’s analysis, compared to peers born in the United States in the same industries, they are more likely to have lower incomes and larger families – and less likely to have health insurance.

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