Who is ‘essential’? Immigrants and foreign workers overrepresented in designated jobs during COVID-19, a new report finds

Interesting and informative report, quantifying some of the numbers:

The pandemic has shed light on how immigrants and foreign workers are the backbone of the essential workforce that keeps the flow of goods and services uninterrupted during the crisis.

Now, for the first time, a new study has looked at the data to back it up.

Based on custom government data, the Conference Board of Canadaexamined the representation of immigrants and temporary foreign workers in sectors and occupations identified by Ottawa as “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although immigrants only account for 23.8 per cent of the Canadian workforce, they are “overrepresented” in major essential jobs: transit and passenger transportation (39.7 per cent); food manufacturing (34.85 per cent); administrative and support services (29.84 per cent); truck transportation (29.71 per cent); nursing and residential care facilities (29.21 per cent); personal and laundry services (28.1 per cent); and food services and restaurants (27.43 per cent).

Temporary foreign workers are also an increasing source of labour in the farm and food manufacturing subsectors.

Work permit holders — who make up around 1.4 per cent of the overall labour force — are overrepresented in food services (3.4 per cent); accommodation services (2.7 per cent); professional and technical services and food manufacturing, both at 2 per cent.

“Immigrants and temporary residents are critical in the essential sectors and occupations. That’s very clear,” said study author Yilmaz Dinc, senior research associate at the Conference Board specializing in immigration.

“As the pandemic has shown, we don’t only need people with bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees. We also need people with manual skills. We need truck drivers, nurse aides and workers in food manufacturing. It’s important to create an immigration pathway for people with those skills to arrive in Canada as permanent residents.”

The data also revealed a chronic problem within the country’s immigration system that rewards high education achievements and professional work experiences but fails to utilize those talent and match them with jobs that are commensurate with those qualifications.

The report found that overqualification is particularly common among newcomers working as nurse aides, orderlies, and patient service associates (45 per cent); transport truck drivers (28 per cent); and process control and machine operators in food and beverage processing (34 per cent). Similar trends are observed for temporary residents in these occupations.

Among truck drivers, for instance, more than 25 per cent of the immigrants and 16.8 per cent of foreign workers in the occupation have a bachelor’s degree even though their role doesn’t require one — an indication the study says that these workers’ skills and knowledge have been underutilized.

The study said immigrants who came under the economic class such as the federal skilled workers program — which often requires post-secondary education — constitute a significant proportion of the immigrant workforce in essential subsectors.

In 2015, 45.7 per cent of the 91,500 permanent residents working in food manufacturing and 52.6 per cent of the 89,000 permanent residents employed in nursing and residential care facilities came here as economic immigrants based on their skills and qualifications.

It’s not like migrants are drawn to essential jobs with low pay and little job mobility, said Dinc, but they have few options.

“These are hard jobs. Many of these sectors, again and again, face difficulties in attracting domestic labour. What happens is these sectors turn to newcomers and temporary residents to fill those vacancies,” he said.

“They are more readily available than some of the better-paying, better-quality jobs. And that’s how the overrepresentation of immigrants and foreign workers becomes stronger and stronger.”

To build a stable essential workforce resilient to disruptions such as a global pandemic, Dinc said policy-makers can’t just rely on the import of temporary foreign workers and on overqualified permanent residents, who would seek other opportunities that arise.

Over the longer term, governments and employers must address the precarious conditions faced by essential workers by improving the benefits and wages to recognize their contributions to the economy not just during pandemic times.

“You have to create pathways to permanent residency for these essential workers to fill essential job vacancies. On the other hand, there needs to be a fresh approach to compensation, career advancement and job mobility to make those jobs attractive not just to immigrants but also Canadians,” said Dinc.

Earlier this year, Ottawa rolled out a one-time special immigration program to grant permanent residence to 90,000 recent international graduates as well as temporary foreign workers with work experience in essential occupations.

Dinc said immigration officials must tweak their existing selection criteria to ensure regular permanent residence pathways are available for migrants to fill essential jobs.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/10/29/who-is-essential-immigrants-and-foreign-workers-overrepresented-in-designated-jobs-during-covid-19-a-new-report-finds.html

Sen Omidvar: Canada needs to improve its immigration channels for essential migrant workers

Of note. But perhaps more fundamentally, we need a more thorough and comprehensive review of our medium and longer-term labour market needs, rather than just responding to current issues:

Canada is in dire need of more essential workers. Besides the ongoing pandemic, our population is aging rapidly. Each day, we have more elderly who need care and fewer workers to meet our employers’ needs. To address these issues, we need a proper migration channel allowing new essential workers at a variety of skill levels to come to Canada and help fill critical jobs. Such a streamlined pathway could be the first step toward making our system easier for both workers and employers. We need to move beyond the current scheme made up of a patchwork of pilots and hard-to-navigate programs. Our growing labour shortages and care needs create an imperative to begin building a comprehensive migration system supported by a collaborative effort by rights-respecting labour mobility actors.

In May, the government opened a one-time pathway to permanent residency for thousands of foreign-born individuals who already work in Canada in “essential” occupations. This program is one of many small steps that legislators have recently taken to address the effects of the ongoing pandemic. However, to truly address the labour shortage crisis, we need to not only offer permanent residency to those already in the country, but also to offer migration channels that will allow more newessential workers to enter.

The pandemic has especially highlighted the extent to which we depend on foreign-born caregivers, child-care workers and workers in the food supply chain. The waitlist for a personal support aide in Ottawa had nearly 3,000 names at the end of last year, and the number of job openings in health care and social assistance hit a record high after jumping nearly 57 per cent.

At the same time, Canadian farmers have reported that the lack of workers in agriculture has already led to production delays. Even pre-pandemic numbers point to a crucial workforce scarcity, with estimates that the country will be short about 200,000 new health-care aides and 123,000 farm workers by the end of this decade. Distressingly, this growing labour force scarcity is not tied just to certain sectors. The overall labour market trends suggest that in the next decade our businesses will be short by two million workers across many industries.

To address the deepening labour shortage, lawmakers decided that more than 400,000 foreign-born individuals – primarily those who are already in Canada – will become eligible for permanent residency in 2021. This will be only the sixth timesince 1867 that we have accepted more than 300,000 permanent residents. The federal government has already taken other meaningful steps toward this goal. Before announcing the one-time pathway to permanent residency for certain foreign-born essential workers, it lowered the threshold for immigrants applying for residency through the point-based system to a historic low.

Although these policies represent important efforts to boost permanent migration, they alone will not solve the labour scarcity issue. Neither one of them establishes sustainable pathways that allow new essential workers currently abroad to come work in Canada and settle here permanently, should they wish to do so.

Current regular mobility pathways exclude most essential workers, such as home caregivers, cashiers and food-processing workers because of education-based criteria that typically require formal certification or a degree. Despite the proven enduring need for essential workers with a variety of skills – not only doctors and registered nurses – the country has yet to introduce ways to accommodate these workers, who may have lower education levels but who are just as important.

Besides offering permanent residency to those who are already here, we need migration channels to bring more essential workers to Canada. Specifically, the government should create a large-scale stable labour mobility program to bring new international talent and essential workers. Such a step must go hand-in- hand with heightened efforts to strengthen protections against abuse in worker recruitment, as well as operational support for migrants who meet the admission criteria but lack the networks and information necessary to get good jobs.

Even if eligible for the program, foreign-born workers still face many operational barriers, from identifying suitable jobs with reliable employers to the processing of official documents both outside and inside Canada. These barriers can slow down or even prevent their arrival. A collaborative effort could create a new “ecosystem” within the labour mobility space to assist workers in navigating existing programs and overcoming these barriers, with an eye toward labour rights. Such efforts would vastly improve employer and worker experiences with labour mobility, leading to a better and more effective migration system.

Our current system is fragmented and hard to understand. The federal government’s attempts to open new ways to address specific migration issues and labour scarcity have led to a patchwork of more than 100 programs and pilots at the federal as well as provincial level. This is extremely difficult for foreign workers and Canadian employers to understand and navigate.

The caregiver sector is a great example of this dissonance. In 2019, the government introduced two new pilots for foreign-born caregivers – a sector with a long and complicated history of migration programs. These new pilots followed two previous five-year caregiver pilots as well as the original program under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), all of which are currently closed.

However, even though the government no longer accepts new applications for these old programs, it still continues to process certain claims submitted for the two previous pilots and to renew existing work permits for TFWP caregivers. As a result, foreign-born caregivers can work in Canada through six separate programs, depending on their current situation. That is just at the federal level. Earlier this year, Quebec launched an additional pilot at the provincial level to accept up to 550 individuals to work as orderlies.

On top of that, the federal caregiver pilots – the only ones accepting new applications – are capped at 5,500 workers, far fewer than the nearly 12,000 new permits that TWFP caregivers received in 2014 before the program began to wind down. Similar to caregivers, workers and employers in other essential industries such as food processing, transportation, construction and manufacturing experience equally confusing and small-scale mobility pathways, if they exist at all.

The federal government’s efforts to provide permanent residency to workers with a variety of skills are certainly laudable. Yet these new policies alone are unlikely to secure enough new workers to address the country’s current and future labour demand. Simply put, there are two issues that must be addressed: our current system is complicated and hard to navigate for both employers and workers; and it doesn’t let enough new foreign-born essential workers at a variety of skill levels enter the country.

Creation of a streamlined program is just the first step. We also need to make labour migration simpler and fairer for workers and employers. This is why alongside a new essential workers pathway, we need to begin building a new ecosystem of labour mobility actors, which would lay the groundwork for a quality “labour mobility industry.” A quality labour mobility industry would bring together actors within the migration space, who respect and promote the rights of workers by ensuring nondiscriminatory and humane treatment and by engaging in other ethical practices such as not requiring recruitment fees and providing lawful wages and working hours. The array of ethical actors would include recruiters, financial intermediaries, remittance providers, transportation providers, travel agents, migration lawyers, consultants and others.

Together, these actors would provide a variety of quality services to facilitate worker mobility under supervision and in accordance with our labour standards and rights, as well as existing bilateral and multilateral agreements. In other words, an industry of co-ordinated ethical actors would streamline the migration process, making it easier, faster and safer to navigate. Importantly, organized co-operation among good actors could also help eliminate at least some of the bad outcomes often seen in existing systems that frequently result in migrant indebtedness, fraud regarding job terms and quality, worker abuse, and irregularity. This would build both worker and employer trust in the system, and hopefully encourage more “good” migration to help fill our essential worker shortages.

The global pandemic and its aftermath have revealed the invaluable role of essential workers. Now we have an excellent opportunity to develop a coherent mobility pathway for additional essential workers. The latest policy efforts suggest that the political will may be there. This new pathway could lay the foundation for a more-equitable immigration system, underpinned by a quality mobility industry that supports safe and legal migration pathways, while ensuring positive outcomes for workers of all skillsets. It’s time for Canada to once again take the lead on labour mobility by setting an example of good practice, so other countries seeking to modernize their immigration schemes can follow.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/august-2021/canada-needs-to-improve-its-immigration-channels-for-essential-migrant-workers/

France grants citizenship to over 2,000 foreign workers for Covid-19 response

Faster than Canadian and Quebec programs to regularize the “anges guardians:”

Marlene Schiappa, junior interior minister in charge of citizenship, said that 2,009 people, including 665 minors, had been fast-tracked for naturalisation for “showing their attachment to the nation”.

Schiappa had instructed the authorities in September to speed up the citizenship applications of essential workers who had “actively contributed” to the fight against Covid-19.

She had ordered that they be allowed to apply for citizenship after just two years in France, instead of the usual requirement of five years.

Those involved include health workers, security guards, checkout workers, garbage collectors, home-care providers and nannies.

Over 8,000 people have applied for citizenship under the scheme, Schiappa’s office said, adding that all requests were being given “the greatest consideration”.

In 2020, 61,371 people acquired French citizenship, a decline of 20 percent compared with 2019.

Source: France grants citizenship to over 2,000 foreign workers for Covid-19 response

Doug Ford’s ‘stay home’ message is absurd. Workers in the hardest-hit areas can’t stay home — they’re essential

Seeing more of these kinds of articles, making the needed comparisons:

A retiree in Rosedale is vaccinated against a virus she’s highly unlikely to catch. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old warehouse worker from North Toronto who is boxing up the retiree’s water resistant throw pillows just in time for patio season is still awaiting his shot. 

Maybe the warehouse worker (who is far more likely than the retiree to catch COVID-19) isn’t eligible for a vaccine yet, or maybe he is eligible but he isn’t sure where or when to get jabbed because everything is so goddamned confusing.

He checked the provincial website but no luck. 

He heard something about vaccine pop-up clinics emerging in his area, but the details are vague. He lives in a so-called “hot spot” but he isn’t involved in community groups; he doesn’t belong to a church or a mosque that would advertise such a clinic. If one pops up, unless he’s lucky, he may miss it. 

The good news is that the Rosedale retiree’s pillows will arrive at her house ahead of schedule. Saturday’s physically distanced backyard tea party will be lovely. 

The above is not an excerpt from the “Hunger Games,” or some Toronto-themed dystopia novel. It’s the reality of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Canada’s most populous city, one that despite city officials’ efforts has produced the following uneven result: those least likely to get the virus are vaccinated in large numbers while those most likely to get it are not. 

According to recent reporting by Olivia Bowden and May Warren, affluent Moore Park is “the most vaccinated neighbourhood in Toronto” (22 per cent of residents have received one shot), while Jane and Finch “where more than half the residents do not speak English as a first language, and where thousands of essential workers live, had the lowest vaccination rate” (5.5 per cent of residents have received one shot).

But this disparity isn’t just glaring in terms of vaccination rates. It’s glaring in terms of mobility too: how much time Torontonians are spending at home vs. out of the house. 

According to data presented at a Toronto Board of Health meeting Monday morning, Torontonians who live in the city’s northwest end — where essential workers tend to live — are leaving their homes more often than those in neighbourhoods where infection rates are lower. 

What’s more, between late March and early April when Premier Doug Ford pulled the “emergency brake,” time spent at home for Torontonians who live in some essential worker enclaves appears to have actually decreased slightly.

Toronto’s top doctor, Dr. Eileen de Villa, presented a map highlighting the disparity at Monday’s meeting. “What we have seen recently is a reduced mobility overall in the city but not equally experienced in all parts of the city,” she said. “We’re seeing more mobility in the northwest of the city which we know has had disproportionate impact of COVID-19.” 

This isn’t a coincidence says Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy. “What’s critical to understand here is that as the people who aren’t staying home, they’re not going out partying — they’re going to their essential jobs. Since the stay-at-home order was issued, people are staying home more often, but not in those hard-hit neighbourhoods.” 

People are staying home more often, but not in those hard-hit neighbourhoods.

If ever there was a statement that defined the urgency of vaccinating essential workers immediately, this is it. If ever there was a statement that defined the urgency of easy to access paid sick leave, this is it. And if ever there was a statement that defined the absurdity of politicians’ repeated directives to “stay home” this is it. 

“Stay-at-home orders only work for people who can stay at home,” says Cressy. And yet, leaders like Ford continue to hammer home the “stay home” message to people who are already complying, or who can’t comply because they have essential jobs. 

On April 7, Ford tweeted the following: “Stay home. Stay safe. Save lives.” On April 10 he tweeted: “Gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while staying at home.” Earlier this year, the premier butchered about a dozen languages asking Ontarians to stay home. 

The problem is that when people have to go to work it doesn’t matter if you ask them nicely in their native tongue not to. 

It doesn’t matter how many empty directives our leaders give. Until vaccines pick up dramatically in Toronto’s inner suburbs and essential workers get paid sick leave that is effective immediately, the cycle will continue. 

The vaccinated will sit safe at home awaiting the contactless delivery of throw pillows. The people who make that life possible will get sick. Contactless delivery is not contactless for everyone. 

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/04/12/doug-fords-stay-home-message-is-absurd-workers-in-the-hardest-hit-areas-cant-stay-home-theyre-essential.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=thestar_recommended_for_you

COVID-19 and essential workers at risk, some examples

Two classic cases, where private companies and weak government regulators have failed to protect workers from COVID-19 (largely immigrants, visible minorities or temporary workers), and the Ontario and Alberta governments only belatedly addressing risk in workplaces through vaccination of workers. Older stories, haven’t seen many updates:

Amazon Brampton Warehouse

An Amazon warehouse that was ordered to shut down last week due to a major COVID-19 outbreak is also being investigated for potential labour violations, the Ontario government said Monday.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Labour said the investigation was already underway when the local public health unit ordered thousands of workers at the Brampton, Ont., facility on Friday to isolate for two weeks,

“We continue to work closely with Peel Public Health and others to provide support, advice and enforcement as needed to ensure the health and safety of Ontario’s workers,” Harry Godfrey said in a statement.

Godfrey noted that penalties for labour violations could be as high as $1.5 million or imprisonment. He said the government would not hesitate to hold employers accountable if they fail to keep their employees safe.

Peel Region’s top doctor said the outbreak at the Amazon facility, which employs approximately 5,000 workers, began in October and has since been linked to more than 600 cases.

Dr. Lawrence Loh said nearly half of the cases were detected in the last few weeks, prompting the public health unit to issue a special order requiring the workers to self-isolate for two weeks starting March 13.

Workers were ordered to isolate until March 27 unless they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have already completed their isolation period for that infection.

Amazon Canada said workers would be paid during the 14-day quarantine, but it disputed the data being used to support the plant closure, pointing to a round of tests that recently came back with a positivity rate of less than one per cent. It has said it plans to appeal the decision.

Peel Public Health said the closure will give the company further time to consider additional operational changes that may help prevent outbreaks in future.

The Ministry of Labour said its inspectors had visited the site 12 times and issued eight orders since March 2020.

Gagandeep Kaur, an organizer with Brampton-based Warehouse Workers Centre that advocates for workers’ rights in the sector, said conditions had been getting worse in the facility for months. She said workers “were kind of surprised” that it took so long for public health to get involved and force the shutdown.

Kaur said people reported that safety precautions like physical distancing have been impossible to maintain inside, especially as workers rushed to meet strict productivity targets.

She said workers are now concerned that they will be asked to push themselves harder once they return from quarantine.

“They are not at home right now enjoying this two week vacation,” Kaur said by phone. “They are more worried that once they are back … management might put higher targets for them to reach.”

Kaur said the pressures of the warehouse workplace, where employees’ time on floor is constantly measured and tracked, created safety issues before the pandemic. Those challenges only increased with the viral threat that also coincided with more hiring, and greater demands as more people relied on the delivery service.

She said the company should use the two-week shutdown to implement changes at the plant such as further separating work stations and reducing performance targets as workers are dealing with the added stress of the pandemic.

“Amazon must use it wisely,” she said of the shutdown. “Maybe implementing those changes inside the facility that will make the work safer so that we don’t end up with this crisis again.”

Last month, labour inspectors carried out a “blitz” operation on the warehouses and distribution centres in Peel Region – a COVID-19 hot spot with a high number of outbreaks in workplaces.

About 200 inspections took place and 26 tickets were issued, according the Ministry of Labour.

Source: https://www.cp24.com/mobile/news/ontario-labour-ministry-investigating-brampton-amazon-site-ordered-to-shut-down-over-outbreak-1.5348106?cache=

Alberta Olymel meat packing

Slaughterhouses. Meat packing. Sick and dead employees. The pandemic has sharpened our vision about a lot of things.

Such as: the workers who are key to making sure Canadians have plenty of steaks, hamburger, and bacon on the menu have become about as disposable as paper plates. This became more than evident over the past month as hundreds of workers in yet another meat packing plant in Alberta became infected with COVID-19.

Three employees have died. The first to die was 35-year-old Darwin Doloque, a recent immigrant from the Philippines who was found dead in his home at the end of January. 

At that point it was clear that infection was spreading among the 1,850 women and men at the Olymel slaughterhouse and pork processing plant in Red Deer. And yet neither government nor public health officials moved to it shut down.

It was only in mid-February after public pressure from the Union of Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the employees, that Olymel management decided to shut down for two weeks. Workers were laid off without pay and advised to apply for Employment Insurance so the government could pick up the bill.

And lest you think Olymel is owned by a U.S. or Brazilian mega-meat packer, it is not. It is a division of Quebec-based Sollio Cooperative Group, Canada’s largest agriculture co-op, which last year reaped $8.1 billion in revenue. Besides being the biggest pork and poultry producer in Canada, Olymel exports to China, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Most of the workers at the Red Deer plant — midway between Calgary and Edmonton — are recent immigrants, refugees, or temporary foreign workers. They come from Sudan, Guatemala, the Philippines, Mexico, and Dominican Republic and usually don’t speak English. 

It’s the same story at most large slaughterhouses/meat packing plants because it is bloody, back breaking, and dangerous work that only people with limited employment options are willing to take. 

For most of us working at a job site where 45,000 hogs a week are killed is beyond imagination. But that is par for the course at the Olymel plant. Every week, the pigs just keep coming from hog farming operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which need to keep those pigs moving if they are to be profitable. They do not want processing plants to close down because it hits them right on the bottom line. 

So workers are pushed to keep working even after a quarter of them have been infected with the coronavirus; even though the majority of those workers have jobs outside the plant and could spread the virus in the larger community.

The COVID-19 outbreak at Olymel and the subsequent inaction on the part of government, public health officials, and plant management could be better understood if we were in the beginning stages of the pandemic and those in charge were still trying to figure out what to do about workplace outbreaks.

But this is hardly the case. In Alberta alone during the past year we have seen serious outbreaks in eight meat packing facilities.

In April, the Cargill plant in High River (owned by a U.S. mega-meat packer) had a total of 950 cases among 2,000 employees, the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Canada. Three people died, dozens were hospitalized. 

In the U.S, 50,000 meat packing workers were infected, and about 250 died. Communities around those facilities had some of the highest infection rates in the country. 

This was all known long before the outbreak at Olymel. The U.S Congress has launched an investigation into how the meat packing industry responded to the pandemic.

In Alberta, both Rachel Notley, leader of the official opposition, and the Alberta Federation of Labour have called for a public inquiry into the Alberta government’s handling of the outbreak at the Olymel plant. 

A public inquiry takes time but given the repeated performance of government agencies and meat packing companies during the pandemic we need to know more about why so many people became infected and died so it won’t happen again. 

In the meantime Olymel is re-opening the Red Deer plant and calling back workers. Bacon anyone?

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/03/08/alberta-is-still-not-protecting-its-meat-packing-workers.html 

France Fast-Tracks Citizenship for Frontline Workers

Broader in scope than Canadian measures. Something for Canadian policy makers and politicians to consider:

Nine months after its president declared “war” against the coronavirus, France announced Tuesday that it has fast-tracked hundreds of citizenship applications from foreign frontline workers who have distinguished themselves in the battle.

“Foreign workers gave their time and swung into action for all of us during the Covid crisis,” said Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for citizenship. “It is now up to the Republic to take a step toward them.”

The beneficiaries include not just health care workers but also garbage collectors, housekeepers and cashiers, Ms. Schiappa said.

The fast-tracking measure is a notable departure for a country that has adopted increasingly tight immigration rules. Caught in the clog of paperwork, citizenship applications can take years to complete, and the number of naturalizations has been decreasing over the years.

Some 48,000 people acquired French nationality through naturalization last year, or about 18 percent fewer than in 2015, according to statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies.

USA: Sixty-nine percent of undocumented immigrant workers have jobs “essential” to fighting Covid, says study

Not surprising:

More than two-thirds of undocumented immigrant workers have frontline jobs considered “essential” to the U.S. fight against Covid-19, according to a new study released Wednesday by pro-immigration reform group FWD.US.

Sixty-nine percent of undocumented immigrant workers have jobs deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the study, which is based on the 2019 American Community Survey by the Census Bureau. The study also estimated that nearly one in five essential workers is an immigrant.

By contrast, the Trump administration has argued that protecting American jobs against foreign workers is crucial to fixing the economic harm caused by Covid-19.

In April, Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to “ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens.” In June, Trump extended the order through the end of the year.

Undocumented immigrants make up 11 percent of agriculture workers, 2 percent of healthcare workers and 6 percent of food services and production workers, the study estimated.

Elizabeth Valencia, 54, on Temporary Protected Status that allows some Salvadorans to work and live in the United States, said she was the only geriatric nursing assistant serving 28 Covid-19 positive residents at a nursing home in Maryland earlier this year after an outbreak affected the staff.

Valencia has lived in the U.S. for 20 years and has worked in the nursing home for almost 18 years, starting as cleaning staff before she trained to be a nursing assistant.

Valencia said all of her co-workers on the floor where she cares for dementia patients are immigrants.

“[The residents] cannot survive by themselves,” she said. “They need us.”

The study also found that 70 percent of the immigrants working in essential jobs have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years and 60 percent speak English.

Nearly one million of the essential workers are “Dreamers” protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the study found. Although DACA, enacted by former President Barack Obama, won a challenge by the Trump administration in a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, a new case in Texas could end the policy.

DACA recipient Jonathan Rodas works as an operating room assistant at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center while he is attending nursing school. Rodas and his entire household, including his undocumented stepfather, all tested positive for Covid-19 in July. They have now all fully recovered and no one was hospitalized.

But Rodas said he was especially worried about his stepfather needing to be hospitalized because he, like other undocumented immigrants, does not have health insurance. Rodas is now back to work. He said he is not surprised by the study that found one in five essential workers are immigrants.

“There’s not a lot of people out there who want to do that job because they’re scared of it,” Rodas said, talking about working in a hospital during a pandemic. “I’m scared of it. But I do it for the patient. The passion that I have to help people out.”

Source: Sixty-nine percent of undocumented immigrant workers have jobs “essential” to fighting Covid, says study