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Al Dia News: Immigrants remain essential as the U.S. economy recovers from COVID-19

Britney Valentine, Al Dia News

April 28, 2021

Late last month, President Joe Biden and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on small businesses, specifically those that are owned by Latino Americans.

Biden and Yellen also reassured Latino business owners that financial assistance is on the way, partly through the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

Using history as a model, Yellen indicated she holds a large amount of faith and confidence that by the end of next year, the nation will find itself once again thriving at full employment, and that Hispanic-owned businesses will continue to “drive a large portion” of the country’s economic recovery.

She also spotlighted a significant event in the nation’s economic past — the period directly after the Great Recession, from 2007 to 2012, where the number of Latino businesses increased by 3.3%.

During the same time period, non-Latino businesses actually decreased by 3.6%, and then following 2012, Latino businesses sustained this growth, moving forward at more than twice the national average.

As the U.S. slowly but surely adapted to the unique challenges presented by the global coronavirus pandemic, it became abundantly clear that the members of society who keep our country running during ordinary times, have and always will be, “essential workers.”

Who are the essential workers?

When the pandemic reached the U.S. in early 2020, and a large part of the economy had no choice but to shut down, the Department of Homeland Security took steps to label certain workers as “essential,” so that their jobs would be protected; excluding them from local and state stay-at-home orders.

Pandemic or not, our country needs food workers, healthcare providers, childcare professionals, grocery store clerks, warehouse workers of all types, and so many more.

Immigrants make up a disproportionate amount of the employees working these jobs that were considered vital during a worldwide health crisis. While many Americans had the luxury to work from home and focus on what show to binge watch on Netflix, a large majority of immigrants had no choice but to put their health at risk to sustain their families and keep the country running.

The Center for Migration Studies (CMS), the Joint Economic Committee Democrats (JECD) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently released a study revealing that about three-fourths of undocumented immigrants in the labor force are classified as essential workers.

While in the beginning it was evident that immigrants were more adversely impacted by the economic recession brought on by the pandemic, they are now poised to play a crucial role in the recovery, just as U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen predicted last month.

The recent report argues that between their spending power, relative youth, high levels of engagement in the fields of science and technology, and high rates of entrepreneurship, immigrants are indispensable contributors to the U.S.’s economic health.

In the United States, immigrants make up about one out of every seven residents, one in every six workers, and are responsible for the creation of about one in every four new businesses.

As of last year, there were 19.8 million foreign-born “essential” workers, working jobs across all sectors and skill-levels. There are more immigrants (69%) and undocumented immigrants (74%) working in these fields than native-born workers (65%.)

As a result, immigrant essential workers have become more likely to contract and die from COVID-19 than native-born Americans.

In California, foreign-born workers make up 69% of agricultural workers, in Alaska, they make up 70% of seafood processing workers, and in Nebraska, these Americans make up 66% of all the meat-processing workers.

Read the full article here.