How COVID continues to affect immigrants

Margaux White '23, Opinion Editor

Margaux White ‘23, Opinion Editor

For the past seven months, COVID has put American lives on hold, and this includes 47 million immigrants.

While some people worry about when local restaurants will open up, millions are worried if they will be able to stay in this country. This pandemic has left the immigration system in utter chaos. Almost all entry to the U.S. has been cut off for non-american citizens, including 30,000 asylum seekers. 

According to the American Immigration Council, “As the pandemic spread, on March 20, 2020 the Department of State suspended outline visa services” at all embassies and consulates worldwide, including cancelling all “immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments.”

This suspension even affects lawful permanent residents, many of whom have lived here their entire lives. 

For the 32,000 immigrants being held in detention camps, the risk of  COVID-19 is one of the highest. Overcrowded and understaffed detention centers aren’t able to practice social distancing, and with limited resources,  the elderly and ill are left in a fatal environment.

In response to protests, ICE announced April 15 that they would release nearly 700 immigrants being held in detention centers due to the rapid spread of COVID.  ICE has assured the media that the immigrants that have been released do not bring any safety hazard to the public.

While the recent release was a big step for the immigration system, there are still tens of thousands who are detained in unsafe, and possibly fatal living conditions. Many have suggested that the majority of detainees should be released due to the current pandemic. 

This global pandemic has affected not only millions of immigrants, but has affected the entirety of the U.S. economy. For example, immigrants have a huge impact on the real estate industry. The  Census Bureau reports “ immigrant-headed households made up 39.5 percent of household growth.” 

Contrary to President Trump’s tweets, not only are undocumented immigrants not a “burden to American taxpayers,” but they contribute around $11.6 billion a year to the U.S. government in taxes alone. 

While the U.S. has been granted a $3 trillion relief fund for Americans at risk during the pandemic, this excludes the millions of immigrants living in America.

In response to the lack of resources , many hospitals have blocked off health care centers as “detention-free” zones where undocumented immigrants are able to get medical assistance without the fear of being searched or detained by ICE.

More recently, states such as california and colorado have put multi-million dollar funds in place specifically to aid illegal immigrants in this pandemic.

Due to job loss, suspension of greencards and visas, tens of thousands have been left struggling to provide for their families, and to stay in the country they have created entire lives for themselves.

While local and state governments have provided relief pensions for immigrants, many immigrants are not eligible for states’ public health care programs, despite being low-income as well as working jobs that pay hourly wages, according to “The Bill of Health”, by Harvard University.  In turn, there is not nearly enough to provide the millions that call America their home.