COVID Resources: Immigration

August 20, 2020

Undocumented Immigrants make up a disproportionate share of frontline workers and are especially concentrated in high-risk industries such as food production, health care, and transportation. However, these same immigrant workers have been excluded from any economic relief included in the CARES Act and are unable to access unemployment insurance. To compound this devastating situation, Trump’s immigration enforcement machine continues to target undocumented residents and separate families at astounding rates, which has led to extreme health risks within immigration detention centers across the United States. 


  • Economic relief for immigrant families: According to the Migration Policy Institute, the citizen restrictions in the CARES Act has excluded 15.4 million people from the $1,200 stimulus payments: 9.9 million undocumented immigrants, along with 3.7 million children and 1.7 million spouses who are either U.S. citizens or green-card holders.
    • California’s Governor allotted $75 million in state disaster relief funds to provide undocumented state residents with one-time cash transfers of $500 per adult. Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, April 2020. 
    • Colorado’s legislature expanded the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit during the 2020 session to increase cash payments to low-income families and became the first state in the nation to include undocumented workers in the tax credit. Colorado General Assembly, July 2020. 
    • Municipalities such as Austin and Minneapolis have created funds to help low-income families who have been economically impacted by COVID-19 to pay rent or other expenses and specifically prioritize families who have been left out of federal relief efforts. Migration Policy Institute, April 2020. 
  • Healthcare for frontline workers: The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act passed by Congress in March authorized COVID-19 testing to be covered by Medicaid, leaving 3.7 million low-income, uninsured non-citizens without coverage for testing and treatment under Medicaid. 
    • California’s legislature expanded Medicaid access to undocumented immigrants under the age of 26. DHCS, January 2020. 
  • Worker Health Protections: Six million immigrant workers are at the frontlines of keeping U.S. residents healthy and fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the immigrants represent 17 percent of the 156 million civilians working in 2018, they account for larger shares in coronavirus-response frontline occupations: 29 percent of all physicians and 38 percent of home health aides, for example. They also represent significant shares of workers cleaning hospital rooms, staffing grocery stores, and producing food.
    • Paid Sick Leave: Twelve states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, have paid sick leave laws, which largely cover immigrant workers. 
    • Paid Family and Medical Leave: Eight states, and Washington D.C., have paid family and medical leave programs, which largely include immigrant workers and their families. 

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