RELEASE: New CAP Column Provides a Demographic and Economic Profile of Undocumented Workers on the Pandemic’s Front Lines

Washington, D.C. — Almost a year into the pandemic, efforts to lead the country out of the coronavirus crisis and get on a path toward a strong economic recovery must include providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their families, who have been keeping the country running throughout the health crisis. This is the main recommendation of a new column released today by the Center for American Progress.

The column underscores that is critical for both Congress and the Biden administration not to ignore the many ways that these undocumented workers have contributed to their communities in these difficult times, and Congress should use all necessary tools to put these individuals on a pathway to citizenship.

Key findings include:

  • Across the United States, 5 million undocumented immigrants—nearly 3 in 4 of those in the workforce—are working alongside their neighbors to keep the country safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Forty states are home to at least 10,000 undocumented essential workers, and in 12 states—California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Maryland, and Arizona—that number is more than 100,000.
  • Each year, undocumented front-line workers and their households pay $47.6 billion in federal taxes and $25.5 billion in state and local taxes.
  • Undocumented immigrants contribute to the social safety net, and their employers pay an additional $14.3 billion in Medicare and Social Security taxes each year.
  • Undocumented essential workers and their households hold $195.2 billion in annual spending power, which is sent back to the local economy.
  • These individuals own 1.2 million homes across the country, paying $14.3 billion in mortgage payments and $33.9 billion in rental payments each year.

Data also show that undocumented essential workers have long ties to the country, as follows:

  • On average, these workers have lived in the United States for 18 years.
  • Three-quarters of undocumented essential workers have lived in the United States for more than a decade, and almost one-fifth of these workers have lived in the country for at least 25 years.
  • Nearly 4.7 million people in the United States—1.2 million adults and 3.5 million children under 18—are married to or have a parent who is an undocumented essential worker.
  • More than 1.3 million of these family members—882,000 adults and 436,000 children—are undocumented Americans.
  • In 19 states—Texas, California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia, Arizona, Maryland, Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Indiana—more than 50,000 residents have a spouse or parent who is an undocumented essential worker.

“Across the United States, millions of undocumented Americans are keeping our communities safe amid the coronavirus pandemic,” says Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, associate director for research on the Immigration Policy team at CAP and author of the column.“Protecting these individuals and their families by putting them on a pathway to citizenship isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s essential to ensuring that our recovery is equitable and robust.”

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