Nearly one in five essential workers in the U.S. is an immigrant, according to a new report. About 23 million of the nation’s essential workforce are immigrants, including 4.3 million undocumented workers. Sixty-nine percent of undocumented workers perform jobs deemed essential by the administration.
These workers are critical to the nation’s healthcare, agricultural, foodservice and other frontline jobs that help keep the nation healthy and the economy going during the pandemic.
Another report finds that nearly 2.3 million U.S. citizens and permanent residents have undocumented spouses, and 4.4 million U.S. citizen children have at least one undocumented parent. Despite those immediate family relationships, outdated and punitive immigration laws prevent these undocumented members of U.S. communities from having a path to permanent residency.
While many immigrant essential workers have temporary status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or Temporary Protected Status, they have no clear path to remain in the U.S. permanently.
Congress, and the Biden administration, should prioritize making sure that essential workers are including in future COVID-19 relief bills, and that essential workers are provided with new avenues to become permanent residents and to contribute to the nation’s economic recovery.