As the pandemic is now in its 8th month in the US, the inequities of the job loss and mortality rates due to COVID have been dramatic. The rate of new infections does not appear to be stabilizing as the number of new cases reach record highs daily. In particular, the hardships have fallen on those least able to handle them -- namely minority groups, single women, those with chronic illnesses and some immigrant groups. Undocumented immigrants, in particular, may have been especially hard hit as this group often lives in close quarters, works in the service industry, agriculture and some labor-intensive manufacturing and they are less likely to have adequate health care coverage. Furthermore, this group often lives in the shadows and may not immediately seek medical help.
What are the Current Statistics for Different Racial and Ethnic Groups?
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article discussing the effects
of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the undocumented Latinx Community (October 7, 2020). Specifically, it finds that Latinx patients in the Baltimore community (where the authors work and live) have reflected especially higher positive Covid test results in comparison to other groups’ testing outcomes. For example, over 40% of the Latinx population tested positive between March 11, 2020, and May 25, 2020 compared to the national average of 8.2%. According to the Boston Center for Antiracist Research, their COVID tracker shows higher national rates of Covid among people of color where deaths per 100,000 are nearly 50 percent higher for Hispanic or Latino individuals compared to white individuals and over 100 percent (or 2 times as likely) for Black individuals.
In Baltimore, where the local Latinx population is 5.5% and growing, the pandemic’s effect on immigrant Latinx patients has revealed demonstrable and immediate consequences. Whereas before the pandemic immigrant Latinx patients reflected a small proportion of Johns Hopkins admissions, following Covid-19 42.6% of Johns Hopkins Latinx patients tested for SARS-CoV-2 had positive results, in comparison with 17.6% of non-Hispanic Black patients and 8.8% of non-Hispanic White patients. This situation seems to be similar in other areas across the country as well. New data shows similar disproportionate ratios in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, and 20 of 45 states reflect cases among Latinx people being double that of expectations based on population, and 11 of 45 states reflect cases being more than three times expected numbers.
Source: The COVID Racial Data Tracker
Why are undocumented immigrants possibly more likely to contract the COVID 19 virus? What reasons could be driving the racial disparities that exist between the undocumented Latinx population and other groups in the United States?
These higher rates may be indicative of underlying systemic issues affecting undocumented Latinx residents, such as tenuous housing arrangements and unstable economic situations, inability to travel and other factors making them a particularly vulnerable population.
A look at the current living situation that many Latinx migrant workers are facing right now gives some insight into the way these circumstances have come to exist. Difficult housing arrangements have helped accelerate rates of transmission between undocumented migrant workers, with many workers living together in densely crowded barrack-style homes. Residence sharing among low-income immigrant families is also common, and patients frequently mentioned living situations involving up to 10 workers within a two-bedroom apartment or multiple families living in a single home.
Source: Pulitzer Center
What local policy actions have been undertaken to try and combat these issues affecting the undocumented Latinx migrant community during the pandemic?
Different local policy responses across the nation have attempted resolving these issues with varying rates of success. Several states and cities have taken matters into their own hands rather than waiting for major fed immigration legislation. In Colorado, rental assistance and emergency medicaid have been offered to everyone without regard for citizenship status. Seattle has also launched a $9 million COVID-19 relief fund that gives grants to undocumented immigrants unable to access federal stimulus money, offering $1,000 to $3,000 grants per household for undocumented immigrants, and adding to the $40 million allocated by the state to assist undocumented workers. California has also made available a $125 million public-private fund for undocumented workers, and Minneapolis is offering $5 million in assistance to tenants and small businesses regardless of immigration status.
What has been lacking?
One notable aspect to some of these local responses is a dearth of mental health assistance resources for undocumented workers. As we enter into the 8th month of the pandemic, mental health needs have only increased for everyone, possibly more for the undocumented immigrant population. In addition, housing instability for the undocumented is proving to be a difficult situation for vulnerable families. In Texas, for example, undocumented immigrants have increasingly begun losing their apartments and homes due to rent lateness and a lack of state protection for their living situations. Going forward, the new administration will continue to be faced with addressing the COVID crisis and will need to consider all vulnerable populations, especially undocumented immigrants who may be suffering disproportionately.
Note: an important consideration for this blog post is that there is a significant lack of concrete data regarding the undocumented community in the United States. Therefore, we had to use information about COVID contractions and mortality rates by race and ethnicity rather than citizenship status. Nonetheless, the Pew Hispanic Center and other researchers have documented that immigrants from Latin American countries comprise a disproportionate share of the undocumented population.
Authored by Jeffrey Justin Ashbeck (UCSB '18 (philosophy), JD (anticipated) '24) and Cynthia Bansak (Professor of Economics, St. Lawrence University)
Email contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Inslee announces COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund now open for applications
https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-announces-covid-19-immigrant-relief-fund-now-open-applications governor.wa.gov, October 21, 2020.
The COVID Racial Data Tracker https://covidtracking.com/race The COVID Tracking Project, last updated November, 2020.
Cohn, D’Vera & Passel, Jeffrey, Mexicans decline to less than half the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population for the first time https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/12/us-unauthorized-immigrant-population-2017/ Pew Research Center, June 12, 2019.
Dillard, Robert, The Pandemic Has Devastated the Underserved: COVID-19 and the Undocumented Latino Community
https://www.docwirenews.com/docwire-pick/home-page-picks/the-pandemic-has-devastated-the-underserved-covid-19-and-the-undocumented-latino-community/ DocWire News Urban Health Today Blog, October 9, 2020.
Flores-Miller, Alejandra & Page, Kathleen Lessons We’ve Learned — Covid-19 and the Undocumented Latinx Community
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2024897 The New England Journal of Medicine, October 7, 2020.
Garnham, Juan Pablo & Venkataramanan, Meena, Undocumented immigrants behind on their rent are self-evicting across Texas
https://www.texastribune.org/2020/07/22/evictions-texas-undocumented-immigrants/ The Texas Tribune, July 22, 2020.
Ortega, May, Undocumented Immigrants Face Different Pandemic Struggles And A Complicated Web Of Resources
https://www.cpr.org/2020/10/15/undocumented-immigrants-coronavirus-pandemic-struggles-resources/ Colorado Public Radio, October 15, 2020.
Shah, Areeba, Harvest During the Pandemic: In America's Rust Belt, an Essential but Vulnerable Workforce Is Left To Fend for Themselves https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/harvest-during-pandemic-americas-rust-belt-essential-vulnerable-workforce-left-fend Pulitzer Center, September 28, 2020.
Shapiro, Nina, Seattle starts COVID-19 relief fund helping undocumented immigrantshttps://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-starts-covid-relief-fund-helping-undocumented-immigrants/ The Seattle Times, October 16, 2020.