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Three Things You Didn’t Know … COVID-19 & Immigration

COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting immigrant communities. Here are three things you need to know.

Within the past couple weeks, COVID-19 has managed to make a sudden and long-lasting impact on lives across the globe. The consequences are huge for America’s immigrant communities.

This crisis is unprecedented, and many parts of the federal, state and local governments are responding. But immigrants and refugees always seem to fall to the bottom of the list. It’s disappointing that, at a time when the world needs smart public health policy and a humanitarian outlook, the Trump administration seems to want to double down on anti-immigrant policies.

1. Immigrants on the frontlines

Immigrants are at the front lines of this public-health crisis. In the healthcare industry, approximately 15 percent of all workers are foreign born and approximately 27,000 ’Dreamers’ are in health support occupations. Around three-quarters of the tech workforce, tirelessly working to support telework and education demands, is foreign born. Approximately 15 percent of the construction industry and half of all farmworkers are undocumented. With USCIS offices closed, many of these critical employees are worried about falling out of their immigrant status.

2. Immigration policy and enforcement are harsher than ever

The Trump administration seems to be using this global health crisis to double down on its anti-immigration agenda. Halting asylum applications, suspending refugee admissions, continuing to spend money to build a border wall, and refusing to legalize dreamers when 27,000 of them are badly-needed health practitioners, are all signs that the administration is determined to stay its anti-immigrant course – even at a time of unprecedented danger.

For those looking to come to the U.S. on H2-A guest worker program visas, only returning seasonal workers will be allowed to enter. Moreover, if USCIS does not take action to prolong and expand interim employment authorization for pending immigration benefits requests, employers and their noncitizen temporary workers will be endangered.

3. Detention Centers are extremely vulnerable

Immigrants held in crowded U.S. detention centers are particularly vulnerable to the spread of diseases. ICE detains nearly 38,000 people in more than 200 private and state-run jails and prisons across the country, many of which sit in rural areas and operate with minimal public oversight. A COVID-19 outbreak would not only expose thousands of detainees living in close quarters, but also thousands of ICE agents and officers, medical personnel, contract workers, and others who work in these facilities to the virus.

More than 3,000 physicians signed a letter urging ICE to release detainees while their legal cases proceed, and lawyers filed suit in federal court in Washington on behalf of more than three dozen families in detention centers.

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