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Undocumented Immigrants Face Hardships due to Covid-19

Life for undocumented immigrants has become increasingly difficult in the age of Covid-19.

On April 22, 2020, President Trump put in place an executive order suspending new permanent residents, such as those applying for green cards or visas, in an effort to prevent individuals from occupying limited positions in the job market.

President Trump ignored a May 2018 study conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to public policy research.

The study titled Immigration, Unemployment and Labor Force Participation in the United States invoked the most recent and comprehensible data on the topic — which was from the 2005-2013 American Community Survey.

The survey found that there was no valid evidence supporting the claim that immigration of any kind leads to higher unemployment rates or lower labor participation rates among U.S natives.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a left leaning organization dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees, found that Illinois Immigrants (including undocumented ones) have positive effects on the Illinois economy — since they pay 7.2 billion in taxes annually, which constitutes 10.6% of all major taxes collected in the state.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, an American nonprofit research organization, facilitated a study titled The Economic Contribution of Unauthorized Workers: an Industry Analysis, which found that the removal of Illegal Immigrants in Illinois at the state level would cause a noticeable annual GDP loss in the state.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a DC based think tank that aligns with liberal immigration policies, claims that Illinois is home to about 487,000 undocumented immigrants, with about 307,000 of them residing in Cook County.

These undocumented citizens face new challenges in the wake of Covid-19. In Cook County, 44% of undocumented immigrants work in manufacturing and accommodation industries, which are often deemed essential according to the Illinois Government.

Many undocumented farmworkers have also now been deemed essential workers by the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

According to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, options to legally hire year-round immigrant farmworkers are sparse, therefore, farmers often rely on undocumented labor.

In Illinois, the farmer's share of the state population is estimated to be 0.8%. According to the Illinois Farm Bureau, a nonprofit U.S. organization controlled by farmers, there are many undocumented workers in Illinois, but there is no data on how many.

“An undocumented immigrant is a person who is very unhappy about how they came here, searching for seasonal work, for example, picking oranges,” said Elizabeth Lozano, who is the program director for the Latin American Studies Program at Loyola University of Chicago.

On April 7, Mayor Lori Lighfoot signed an executive order that seeks to protect undocumented immigrants and refugees during Covid-19.

This executive order supports undocumented individuals and families by ensuring their eligibility for any economic assistance offered by the City of Chicago.

An estimated 136,000 people, which is 44% of the undocumented immigrant population in Cook County, is at or above 200% of the poverty line.

According to Get Covered Illinois, undocumented immigrants can receive health care services at community health centers or federally qualified health centers and will not be turned away from any hospital emergency room for medical treatment.

An estimated 156,000 people, which is 51% of the undocumented immigrant population in Cook County, have no health insurance.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, an American non-profit health organization, more than 45% of non-elderly undocumented immigrants are uninsured nationwide.

These undocumented immigrants are not eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP or to purchase coverage options.

Uninsured undocumented immigrants are ineligible for coverage options due to their immigration status. Without coverage, they remain reliant on safety net clinics and hospitals for care that they often do not adequately receive.

“If I were undocumented in a situation like this, I would feel more afraid than normal,” said Lozano. She concluded that undocumented immigrants are often on the margins of society, even if they have been in that place in the society for a long time.

According to the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to strengthen protections for low-wage workers, undocumented workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Workers must have valid work authorization during the time that they apply for benefits, and throughout the period during which they are receiving benefits.

The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a left wing alliance of American University leaders, says that more than 450,000 Undocumented Students are enrolled in Colleges & Universities in the United States.

The report titled: Undocumented Students in Higher Education: How Many Students are in U.S. Colleges and Universities and Who Are They explores how undocumented students are a crucial part in dealing with the Coronavirus crises.

Already, 280,000 undocumented immigrants, including 62,000 DACA-eligible individuals, are serving on the front lines of the Coronavirus crisis as healthcare workers, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, which is a a nonprofit, bipartisan immigration research organization.

Despite this, the Education Department under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued new guidelines on April 21, 2020 that prohibit colleges from granting emergency assistance to undocumented students, including those known as dreamers.

TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for Dreamers, found that Covid-19 has a negative impact on dreamers. In a recent survey of more than 1,600 Dreamer students, they found that 65% of them need help with rent and or utilities and 48% need help with food and meals. Many students also reported anxiety that negatively impacted their ability to do well in online classes.

In a letter to Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy,

The United States’ largest Latino nonprofit advocacy organization, UnidosUS, urged congress to: give all individuals ready access to coronavirus testing and treatment, including the uninsured and underinsured, regardless of immigration status, including DACA recipients and TPS holders.


Edwards, R. (n.d.). The Economic Contribution of Unauthorized Workers: An Industry Analysis.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is an American private nonprofit research organization "committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.

Fact Sheet: Immigrant Workers' Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes policies to “create good jobs, expand access to work, and strengthen protections and support for low-wage workers and the unemployed.”

Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund: Guidelines under The Education Department

Illinois. Gov. Essential Businesses & Operations Frequently Asked Questions

TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMers.

Get Covered Illinois. Coverage options for Immigrant Families

Kaiser Family Foundation. Health Coverage of Immigrants

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, or just Kaiser Family Foundation, is an American non-profit organization, headquartered in San Francisco, California. It focuses on major health care issues facing the nation, as well as the U.S. role in global health policy.

Mayor Lightfoot Signs Executive Order to Protect Immigrant and Refugee Communities During Covid-19

Memorandum On Identification Of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During Covid-19 Response

Mercier, S. (n.d.). Employing Agriculture: How the Midwest Farm and Food Sector Relies on Immigrant Labor.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is a global affairs think tank, describing itself as "an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues." The organization is based in the Chicago Loop at Two Prudential Plaza.

Profile of the Unauthorized Population - County Data. (2020, February 1). Retrieved from

The Migration Policy Institute is a non-partisan think tank established in 2001 by Kathleen Newland and Demetrios G. Papademetriou. MPI has been described as supportive of liberal immigration policies.

Public Charge. (2009, September 3). Retrieved from

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Illinois is Home Statewide Survey of Immigrants and Refugees

ICIRR is dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. Created in 1986 in response to President Reagan signing into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act, ICIRR has been at the forefront of helping immigrants realize and contribute to the dream that is America.

The Presidents' Alliance brings together American college and university chancellors and presidents dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses and communities.

Undocumented Immigrants and the Covid-19 Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved from

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans.

Unidos U.S: Letter to Congress

UnidosUS, formerly National Council of La Raza, is the United States’ largest Latino nonprofit advocacy organization. It advocates in favor of progressive public policy changes including immigration reform, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and reduced deportations.

Zavodny, M. (n.d.). Immigration, Unemployment and Labor Force Participation In The United States.

The National Foundation for American Policy, "is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to public policy research on trade, immigration, education, and other issues of national importance. The organization seeks to expand the debate over the proper role of government on key issues of the day and to engage actively in the media and with the public to ensure its ideas are considered and implemented wherever possible."

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