About 8 percent of New York City’s 8.4 million residents do not have health insurance. However, the percentages of New Yorkers without insurance vary by legal status. In New York City, 47 percent of undocumented people do not have health insurance, compared to 12.6 percent of legal noncitizens, 6.1 percent of naturalized citizens, and 4.8 percent of native-born citizens. For immigrants, advancing to more secure and permanent legal statuses is highly correlated with having health insurance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inequalities facing vulnerable populations: those living in economically precarious situations and lacking adequate health care. In addition, frontline workers deemed essential to meet our basic needs have faced enormous personal risk to keep earning their paychecks and the economy running. Immigrant communities face an intersection of all three vulnerabilities (e.g., economic precarity, health care barriers, essential workforce), making them one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. The authors conducted 26 interviews via Zoom with immigrant service providers in Pennsylvania and New York, including lawyers, case workers, religious leaders, advocates, doctors, and educators in order to gain a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities. These interviews affirmed that immigrants are concentrated in essential industries, which increases their exposure to the virus. In addition, they lack access to social safety nets when trying to access health care or facing job/income loss. Last, COVID-19 did not adequately slow the detention and deportation machine in the United States, which led to increased transmission of the virus among not only detainees but also others in the detention system, surrounding communities, and the countries to which people were deported, countries that often lacked an adequate infrastructure for dealing with the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global human mobility dynamics. This IMR Dispatch examines the historical, bidirectional links between pandemics and mobility and provides an early analysis of how they unfolded during the first nine months of the COVID-19 emergency. Results show, first, that international travel restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus are not a panacea in and of themselves. Second, our analysis demonstrates that the pandemic, government responses, and resulting economic impacts can lead to the involuntary immobility of at-risk populations, such as aspiring asylum-seekers or survival migrants. In a similar fashion, stay-at-home measures have posed dire challenges for those workers who lack options to work from home, as well as for migrants living in precarious, crowded circumstances. Moreover, global economic contraction has increased involuntary immobility by reducing both people’s resources to move and the demand for labor. Third, we show that people’s attempts to protect themselves from the virus can result in shifting patterns of mobility, such as increases in cross-border return migration and urban-to-rural movements. Drawing on international guidance for measures to combat pandemics and relevant frameworks on mobility, we propose approaches to alleviate the burden of travel restrictions on migrants and people aspiring to move, while still addressing the need to contain the pandemic and lessen its repercussions.
On March 24, 2020, a 31-year-old Mexican national in Bergen County Jail, New Jersey, became the first federal immigration detainee to test positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By April 10, 2020, New Jersey had more confirmed COVID-19 cases among immigration detainees than any other state in the nation. This article examines the relationship between COVID-19 and processes of migrant detention and deportation through a case study of New Jersey — an early epicenter of the pandemic and part of the broader New York City metro area. Drawing on publicly available reports and in-depth interviews with wardens, immigration lawyers, advocates, and former detainees, we describe the initial COVID-19 response in four detention facilities in New Jersey. Our findings suggest that migrant detention and deportation present distinct challenges that undermine attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19. We provide testimonies from migrant detainees who speak to these challenges in unsettling personal terms. Our interviews highlight the insufficient actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to contain the spread of the pandemic and a troubling lack of due process in immigration court proceedings. Based on these findings, we argue that reducing the number of migrants detained in the United States is needed not only in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic but also as a preventative measure for future health crises. Reductions can be achieved, in part, by reforming federal immigration laws on “mandatory detention.”
On March 1, 2021, the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) hosted a virtual presentation and discussion of its report, “Mapping Key Determinants of Immigrants’ Health in Brooklyn and Queens.” The report profiles the neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where immigrant communities are most at risk for negative health outcomes. As a complement to the report, the interactive data tool maps key health determinants in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx. Both aim to identify and potentially meet gaps in services to immigrant populations, particularly healthcare, housing, legal, educational, and work-related services.
This study maps the determinants of immigrant health in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. In doing so, it seeks to enable healthcare providers, government agencies, and non-profit immigrant-serving entities – including faith-based entities – to identify gaps in their services to immigrant populations, and to help meet the need – healthcare and other – of diverse immigrant communities at heightened risk of adverse health outcomes.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) data indicates that there are approximately 281 million people living outside of their country of origin and they represent 3.6 percent of the global population. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that by mid-2020, the world’s population of forcibly displaced people and refugees surpassed 80 million. International migrants and the forcibly displaced have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic due to border closures, travel restrictions, unemployment, and xenophobia, racism, and stigmatization. They have been among the world’s most vulnerable persons to the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences.
This data tool serves as a complement to CMS’s report, “Mapping Key Determinants of Immigrants’ Health in Brooklyn and Queens.” It is intended to allow healthcare providers, government agencies, and non-profit immigrant-serving entities, including faith-based organizations, to identify and potentially meet gaps in services to immigrant populations, particularly healthcare, housing, legal, educational, work-related, and other services.
Guadalupan Multicultural Services of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, otherwise known as “La Casita,” has provided a range of services to immigrants in northern Alabama for years.
This panel examined trends in international migration and migration-related policies in the context of pandemics of disease, racism, and violence. It examined the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related policies on migrants and refugees, drawing on a growing body of research on how pandemics affect marginalized communities. The intersection of the health pandemic and the pandemics of racism and violence also disproportionately affect persons of color, including migrants and refugees. This panel lifted up promising international, national, and local approaches to the immense challenges facing immigrants, refugees, and their communities of origin and destination. Panelists also discussed the role of immigrants and refugees in economic and social recovery.
Donald G. Herzberg Professor Emeritus School of Foreign Service
Former Assistant Secretary
Population, Refugees and Migration
U.S. State Department
US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Professor of the Practice and Director
Center for Humanitarian Health
Johns Hopkins University
Former Research Director
Center for Migration Studies
UN Population Division
University of California, Davis