This article provides detailed estimates of foreign-born (immigrant) workers in the United States who are employed in “essential critical infrastructure” sectors, as defined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the US Department of Homeland Security. Building on earlier work by the Center for Migration Studies, the article offers exhaustive estimates on essential workers on a national level, by state, for large metropolitan statistical areas, and for smaller communities that heavily rely on immigrant labor. It also reports on these workers by job sector; immigration status; eligibility for tax rebates under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act); and other characteristics.
This article comprehensively examines international migration trends and policies in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It begins by reviewing migration developments throughout the past 60 years. It then examines pandemic-related migration trends and policies. It concludes with a series of general observations and insights that should guide local, national, regional, and international policymakers, moving forward. In particular, it proposes the following:
- National measures to combat COVID-19 should include international migrants, irrespective of their legal status, and should complement regional and international responses.
- Localities, nations, and the international community should prioritize the safe return and reintegration of migrants.
- States and international agencies should plan for the gradual re-emergence of large-scale migration based on traditional push and pull forces once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.
- States should redouble their efforts to reconcile national border security concerns and the basic human rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
- States and the international community should accelerate their efforts to address climate-related migration.
- States of origin, transit, and destination should directly address the challenges of international migration and not minimize them.
More than 4,000 Venezuelan citizens, stranded in 10 countries, have demanded repatriation flights to Venezuela, according to news reports. For more than three months, Venezuelans living in vulnerable situations during the pandemic have been waiting for flights in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Panamá, and the United States. Joselin Ferrer, a 41 years old lawyer, is one of the few Venezuelans who has been able to return to her country.
It has been a remarkably interesting three months from the fourth floor at the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana. The virus has not disappeared, and to be honest, I doubt that it ever will. So, the question on everyone’s mind is, “How do we move forward?” Well a few things are certain: 1) You need to wear a mask; 2) You need to stay six feet from people you do not live with; 3) You need to wash your hands very often. It seems to be a rather simple roadmap to success, but for some reason, a lot of people do not get it. Meanwhile, after almost five months confined to the fourth floor, with an occasional trip to the US Post Office, I came to the conclusion that I cannot stay on the fourth floor forever and we cannot keep the Casa closed indefinitely.
State and local governments have exercised unusual powers since the early days of the Coronavirus lockdowns, ordering businesses to open and close, the wearing of masks and much else. Amidst it all, renewed activism on immigration issues in some parts of the country has produced measures that offer emergency economic relief and access to health care for immigrants left out of federal programs, especially the undocumented. In other cases, governments have facilitated employment by immigrants considered “essential” from surgeons to farmworkers.
Thousands of Venezuelan migrants in South America face a Hobson’s choice, remain in their host countries in conditions of extreme vulnerability and mandatory quarantines, or return to Venezuela, despite the risks of contagion from the virus, the closure of borders, and Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
The coronavirus pandemic’s heroes are the “essential worker,” the medical professionals tending the sick, the bus drivers and train conductors taking those professionals to work and home again, the ambulance crews bringing the desperately ill to the hospital, and the letter carriers, truck drivers, and bicyclists delivering mail, medicine, and food. For nineteenth and early twentieth-century immigrants, clergy were also essential workers.
The coronavirus pandemic has challenged many commonly-held perceptions about the United States. We have learned we are not invincible, for one, and are not always the best prepared in responding to crises. We also have an inequitable health-care system, as we lack the medical resources to care for everyone and too many in our country remain without health-care coverage. The other inconvenient truth that the pandemic has revealed is the injustice of our immigration system; we depend upon the labor of immigrants but scapegoat them as the cause of our problems.
The US response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to fortify migration polices that violate the human rights of migrants. Beyond suspending hearings for asylum-seekers subject to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the US government has ordered the rapid repatriation of apprehended migrants, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, has continued deportation proceedings and removals, and has suspended many legal migration processes. On April 10, the administration asserted its right, resulting from the “profound and unique public health risks posed by the novel (new) coronavirus” to impose visa sanctions on countries that deny or delay “the acceptance of aliens who are citizens, subjects, nationals or residents of that country” that impede the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) response to the pandemic. Expulsions, removals, and denial of access to asylum have become central to the US pandemic response, without the US offering evidence connecting the spread of the virus to persons arriving at US land borders. The situation unfolding in Guatemala is particularly illustrative.
This paper provides estimates on “essential” immigrant workers in New York State. These workers play a central role in safeguarding and sustaining state residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, often at great risk to their health and that of their families. Based on estimates drawn from 2018 US Census data, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) estimates that 1.8 million immigrants work in jobs in the “essential businesses” identified by New York State. These businesses fall into 10 categories that meet the health, infrastructure, manufacturing, service, food, safety, and other needs of state residents. The majority of the New York foreign-born essential workers – 1.04 million – are naturalized citizens, 458,400 are legal noncitizens (mostly lawful permanent residents or LPRs), and 342,100 are undocumented.