The United States is facing the most dire healthcare crisis in recent memory. Last week, NAE took a look at the role immigrants are playing in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak as healthcare workers and in supporting industries. Today, we examine the most vulnerable group of immigrants, the undocumented. The data reveals that undocumented immigrants too are serving in critical frontline healthcare roles as support workers as well as in industries that are keeping the rest of the U.S. economy functioning as best as it can during this time.
In 2018, there were almost 280,000 undocumented workers in the healthcare industry, including 62,600 DACA-eligible individuals.
Top 10 States for Undocumented Healthcare Workers, 2018
|State||Number of Undocumented Healthcare Workers|
While barred from most higher skilled medical and healthcare professions, the data shows that undocumented immigrants play a vital role as healthcare support workers, working as nursing assistants, as health aides, as well as the cleaners and building maintenance workers that keep medical and care facilities running.
Top Occupations for Undocumented Healthcare Workers, 2018
|Occupation||Number of Undocumented Workers||Undocumented Share of All Workers|
|Home Health Aides||29,697||6.9%|
|Personal Care Aides||25,688||4.4%|
|Housekeepers and Cleaners||15,579||6.4%|
|Receptionists and Information Clerks||10,932||2.4%|
|Janitors and Building Cleaners||5,483||4.1%|
We find that DACA-eligible immigrants, many of whom are allowed to work in higher skilled medical and health professions under the DACA program, are well represented in healthcare as registered nurses and medical assistants.
Top Occupations for DACA-Eligible Healthcare Workers
|Occupation||Number of DACA-Eligible Workers||DACA-Eligible Share of All Workers|
|Receptionists and Information Clerks||5,245||1.1%|
|Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses||4,517||0.6%|
Outside the healthcare industry, undocumented immigrant workers often work in industries that are likely to be severely impacted by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis. In particular, hotels and restaurants, which are already feeling the negative effects of shelter-in-place rules and declines in travel and food consumption, have high shares of undocumented workers.
Undocumented Workers in Adversely Affected Industries
|Industry||Number of Undocumented Workers||Undocumented Share of All Workers|
|Hotels and Accommodation||152,925||10.0%|
|Restaurants and Food Service||812,190||8.3%|
Despite this, many undocumented immigrants also work in roles deemed “essential” from grocery store workers to auto repair mechanics. Delivery people have proven indispensable in getting food, medicines, and other supplies to people stuck at home. In New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, undocumented immigrants form an even more significant share of the delivery workforce, with almost 1 in 3 food delivery people being undocumented.
Spotlight on Undocumented Delivery People
|Essential Industry||Number of Undocumented Delivery People, Nationwide||Undocumented Share of Delivery People, Nationwide||Number of Undocumented Delivery People, New York State||Undocumented Share of Delivery People, New York State|
|Groceries and Supermarkets||9,870||6.8%||2,000||15.0%|
|Restaurants and Food Service||15,153||6.0%||6,453||32.6%|