According to a new study, 69% of US undocumented immigrants are in jobs deemed ‘essential’ to the nation’s fight against coronavirus. The study carried out by pro-US immigration group FWD.US, and based on the 2019 American Community Survey by the Census Bureau, also estimates that nearly one in five essential workers is an immigrant.
In contrast to the study’s findings, the Trump administration has maintained that protecting American workers against the influx of migrant labor is ‘crucial to fixing the economic harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic’.
So-called ‘essential workers’ are determined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and based on the DHS’ definition, the FWD.US study highlights that more than two-thirds of undocumented immigrant workers have frontline jobs classified as ‘essential’.
US work visas suspended
In April, Trump signed an executive order suspending access to US work visas for all new applicants amid rising unemployment levels among American workers. Executing the order, Trump said: “This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens.”
In June, the order was extended up until the end of 2020. Under the order, access to US H1B visas, L1 visas and other employment-based US visas has been denied to new applicants. The suspension led to several lawsuits.
Undocumented immigrants essential to US workforce
According to the FWD.US study, undocumented immigrants make up 11% of agriculture workers, 2% of healthcare workers and 6% of food services and production personnel.
Meanwhile, the study also revealed that 70% of the undocumented immigrants working in essential jobs have lived in America for 10 years or more, while 60% speak English.
Close to one million of the essential workers are ‘Dreamers’ who are in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) US immigration program.
DACA, an Obama-era initiative, has been heavily targeted by the Trump administration for abolishment, and despite surviving a Supreme Court challenge earlier this year, the program currently faces a fresh court battle in Texas.
According to an NBC News report, study respondent and DACA recipient, Jonathan Rodas, who works as an operating assistant at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center while he is attending nursing school, said: “I’m not surprised by the study finding that one in five essential workers are immigrants.”
Rodas said that there were not many people willing to do the job he’s doing because they’re scared of the pandemic. He said: “I’m scared of it. But I do it for the patient. The passion that I have to help people out.”
Trump’s final immigration push
The FWD.US study comes amid a final push by the Trump administration to implement as many US immigration restrictions as possible prior to President-elect, Joe Biden, coming into office.
The outgoing President still has his sights set on undocumented immigrants in particular, with the DACA program heavily targeted, while Trump has also tried to have illegal immigrants excluded from the 2020 US Census. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) scheme has also been on his radar.
However, Trump is finding it difficult to force through immigration restrictions as his Presidency nears its end, with lawsuits challenging many of his proposals.
Biden has promised to reverse many of Trump’s controversial immigration policies, including a visa ban on several Muslim majority nations, among others.
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