Trump is threatening to block immigration over coronavirus. But immigrants are on the frontlines of the pandemic
Updated 12:55 PM ET, Tue April 21, 2020
(CNN)President Trump is threatening to impose new immigration restrictions over coronavirus, even though the United States has more confirmed Covid-19 cases than anywhere else in the world.
While details about Trump's plans remain unclear, we do know a lot about the role immigrants have been playing on the frontlines during the pandemic.
Foreign-born workers make up about 17% of the US civilian labor force. But they're an even bigger part of the workforce in many jobs that are key to fighting the virus and keeping the country afloat, according to a recent analysis by the Migration Policy Institute. Immigrants are also likely to be disproportionately impacted by layoffs, the institute said.
Here's a look at some key statistics about immigrant workers in the United States from that analysis and why these numbers matter right now:
6.3 million immigrants hold jobs that are key to fighting coronavirus
The Migration Policy Institute used 2018 census data to crunch the numbers.
Their estimate: 6,259,000 immigrants are working in jobs on the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus, including health care and social services; grocery stories, pharmacies and gas stations; manufacturing of food, medicine, soap and cleaning agents; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; bus, metro and taxi drivers; postal service workers; and scientific research and development.
1 in 4 doctors in the US are immigrants
Across the United States, 29% of all physicians are immigrants. That's a significant number. And there's more to the story that this data point doesn't capture. In many rural communities, immigrant doctors are providing crucial medical care.
38% of home health aides are immigrants
The need for home health care is growing as the US population gets older. And a large percentage of home health care workers are immigrants. Experts have warned that if immigrants lose work permits, the shortage in home health aides will become even more severe.
22% of workers in the US food industry are immigrants
Immigrants play an "outsized role in food production," according to MPI, and represent a far larger share of workers in certain occupations.
Nearly a third of agriculture workers nationwide are foreign-born, according to census data. But experts caution official data likely doesn't provide a complete picture of all the country's agriculture workers, because many are undocumented and not necessarily included in those tallies.
But the official numbers that do exist show immigrants play a big part in getting food on America's tables.
37% of meat processing industry workers are immigrants
Given the growing number of coronavirus outbreaks we've seen at meat processing facilities, that's an important statistic to keep in mind.
35% of crop production workers are immigrants
Some of them recently told CNN they were scared to go to work because of the coronavirus but felt they had no other choice.
483,000 immigrants work in grocery stores
That's around 16% of the nearly 3 million grocery retail workers, according to MPI.
69% of California's agricultural workers are immigrants
California produces two-thirds of the country's fruits and nuts and one third of the country's vegetables.
34% of metro, bus and taxi drivers are immigrants
They're making sure other essential workers can get to their jobs, even though their own health is at risk.
6 million immigrants work in industries that are laying off large numbers of workers
According to MPI, immigrants are "also over-represented in some of the non-frontline industries that are being devastated as more people follow social distancing guidelines and more states and cities issue shelter-in-place orders."
These industries include accommodation and food services; nonessential retail; personal services and private households; arts and entertainment; building services; nonessential transportation and travel assistance.
For example, 38% of chefs and head cooks and 52% of maids and housekeepers are immigrants.
Immigrant workers often have less access to relief and government safety nets. And according to MPI's analysis, compared to US-born peers in the same industries they're more likely to have lower incomes and larger families -- and less likely to have health insurance.