New research from New American Economy (NAE) released today in partnership with the City of Portland, highlights how immigrants are both essential to Portland’s rapid response efforts and especially vulnerable due to gaps in our federal relief package, language access barriers, and increased risks of infection associated with frontline and essential work.
Key findings from this report include:
- Immigrants serve in essential industries and carry out vital roles that keep Portland functioning but put them at higher risk of infection. Despite making up just 13.5 percent of the city’s residents in 2018, immigrants comprise more than 21.1 percent of all Restaurant and Food Service workers and 20.1 percent of all Transportation and Warehouse workers in Portland.
- Immigrants play an important role in Portland as job creators but are concentrated in industries that are especially vulnerable to the economic recession caused by COVID-19. Immigrants make up 32.9 percent of business owners in Hospitality, 20.9 percent of business owners in General Services and 16.4 percent of business owners in Healthcare.
- Culturally sensitive and language accessible emergency materials are in demand. In 2018, over 28 percent of immigrants, or 24,510, living in Portland had limited English language proficiency. Among them, the top five languages spoken at home other than English were: Spanish (32 percent), Vietnamese (21.3 percent), Chinese (13.7 percent), Russian (8.8 percent), and Ukrainian and related (3.3 percent).
- Access to healthcare and medical services remains critical for all Portland residents during this pandemic. In 2018, 44,101 Portland residents were without insurance, over 28 percent of which were immigrants.
The city of Portland is one of twelve communities that received NAE research to inform culturally sensitive emergency response measures that ensure all residents are included, regardless of immigration status. Portland’s customized research report highlights the demographic nuances of the city’s immigrant population and will inform the advocacy, development, and implementation of inclusive local emergency responses.