New research from New American Economy released today in partnership with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia highlights how immigrants are both essential to the region’s rapid response efforts and especially vulnerable due to gaps in federal relief packages, language access barriers, and increased risks of infection associated with frontline and essential work.
Key findings from the report include:
- Immigrants serve in essential industries and carry out vital roles that keep Northern Virginia functioning but put them at higher risk of infection. Despite making up 27.6 percent of the county’s residents in 2018, immigrants comprise 60.1 percent of all construction workers, 56.9 percent of all essential services workers, 51.2 percent of all transportation and warehousing workers, and 50.2 percent of all food service workers in the region.
- Immigrants play an important role in Northern Virginia as job creators but are concentrated in industries that are especially vulnerable to the economic recession caused by COVID-19. Immigrants make up 59.3 percent of business owners in personal services, like laundry, barber, and repair shops, and over 41 percent of business owners in retail trade.
- Culturally sensitive and language accessible emergency materials are in demand. In 2018, 18.3 percent of immigrants, or 124,700, living in Northern Virginia had limited English language proficiency. The top language spoken at home other than English was Spanish (31.2 percent), followed by Korean (5.5 percent).
- Access to healthcare and medical services remains critical during this pandemic. Over 21 percent of immigrants, or 143,800 people, were living in Northern Virginia without health insurance in 2018.