Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX)—Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC)—and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA)—Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC)—released a new report, “Immigrants, the Economy and the COVID-19 Outbreak,” which explores both the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy during the coronavirus crisis and the economic and other impacts it has had on them. The report is being released on the same day as a House Resolution sponsored by Congressman Castro that commemorates Immigrant Heritage Month.
Seventeen percent of U.S. workers are immigrants. Foreign-born workers are overrepresented in both front-line medical occupations (e.g., home health aides, nurses, physicians) and occupations that have been designated “essential” (e.g., meatpacking, crop production, construction), as well as occupations that have experienced the steepest rise in unemployment in recent months (e.g., food service, hospitality).
Consequently, immigrants both have an elevated risk of exposure to the coronavirus and are more likely to lose their job or business as a result of the related recession. At the same time, they are less likely to be eligible for coronavirus relief measures like direct cash payments, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and the Paycheck Protection Program.
The HEROES Act, which was passed by the House last month and awaits action by the Senate, addresses some of the needs highlighted in the report, e.g., providing coronavirus testing and treatment regardless of immigration status, hazard pay for essential workers, and protections for farmworkers and meatpacking workers. A list of other key immigration provisions included in the HEROES Act is here.
“Immigrants—the ‘essential’ workers, entrepreneurs and millions of others—help power our economy. We need to recognize the important role they play, especially during the current crisis, and provide them with the help they need," Congressman Beyer said. “Any coronavirus relief measure that hurts immigrants’ ability to recover from the health and economic impacts of this pandemic is one that hurts our nation’s ability to recover. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important for the Senate to pass the HEROES Act, which extends health care, hazard pay and housing protections to immigrants and their families, among other key policies.”
“In every sector of our economy and every aspect of our society, immigrants enrich American life,” Congressman Castro said. “The coronavirus pandemic has exposed to everyone what Congressional Hispanic Caucus Members have been saying for years: immigrants are essential workers and critical to our nation’s infrastructure. Immigrants fulfill critical roles and we must value their contributions by reforming our broken immigration system, protecting families from deportation, and supporting all workers during this crisis.”
Congressman Castro continued, “The sacrifices of immigrants—working the front lines of COVID-19 and risking their lives for everyone’s wellbeing—must never be forgotten. This illuminating report by the Joint Economic Committee under the leadership of Vice Chair Don Beyer shows how immigrants are key drivers of economic growth by starting businesses and developing innovations, and without immigrant labor several major industries would not function. Immigrants are making the United States a healthier, safer, more prosperous nation and are vital to America’s future success.”
In the food supply chain industry, immigrants make up 20-70 percent of the labor force depending on the type of work (e.g., graders, sorters) and the location of the work (e.g., California, Texas). (Overall, they make up 22 percent of all workers in the industry.) About one-in-four new businesses in the U.S. are started by immigrants and these businesses employ 8 million workers. In addition, the spending power of immigrants is strong—$1.2 trillion annually according to the bipartisan research and advocacy organization New American Economy.
About the CHC
The 38-Member Congressional Hispanic Caucus is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories. Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) is the Chair.
About the JEC
The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee is Congress’s bicameral economic think tank. It was created when Congress passed the Employment Act of 1946. Under this Act, Congress established two advisory panels: the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the JEC. Their primary tasks are to review economic conditions and to recommend improvements in economic policy.
Chairmanship of the JEC alternates between the Senate and House every Congress. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is the Chair. Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is Vice Chair.