From health care workers to grocery store cashiers, 69 percent of undocumented immigrants are employed as essential workers working to keep us fed and well-supplied during the ongoing pandemic.
But despite risking their lives to work in frontline jobs, undocumented individuals are being denied government funding and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) from their employers.
The PPE Shortage Crisis and the Undocumented Community
As essential workers with unstable jobs and members of marginalized racial and ethic groups — Latinxs, Asians–, 6 million undocumented immigrants face a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. The highest percentage of undocumented workers are farmworkers, who are estimated to comprise almost half of the entire agricultural workforce. For these farmworkers, COVID-19 testing is limited, and employers cannot receive government funding to provide PPE; therefore, they often do not. Due to their undocumented status, many undocumented workers are afraid to speak out in fear of deportation or losing their jobs, while some do not know which steps to take to speak out.
Due to their inability to receive documentation in the United States, undocumented workers are often forced into low paying jobs that limit their opportunities to succeed financially. In turn many undocumented immigrants live in poverty, making them more likely to live in households occupying multiple generations. The older family members of essential undocumented workers, who are in the greatest risk category are also at a greater risk of exposure to the virus. Direct exclusion from federal funds, despite contributing billions in taxes, makes it difficult to afford food, not to mention PPE, especially when their jobs are not stable or high-paying.
Challenges to Caring for Undocumented Essential Workers
Agricultural workers can also easily transmit COVID-19 to one another because of the crowded conditions in which they live. Leading agricultural states like Texas and Idaho have yet to set COVID-19 mandates to protect and prevent farmworkers from contracting the virus. Other essential workers working in grocery, food service, health care, and manufacturing industries also find it challenging to social distance without the commitment of employers.
Furthermore, employers of undocumented workers oftentimes refuse to offer sick leave, even after employees shows symptoms of COVID-19. This is compounded by an employment system where many undocumented workers do not want to take time off, in fear of reduced pay or even the loss of their job.
If they do contract the disease, many undocumented immigrants do not seek healthcare because they are unable to afford the hefty cost of going to see a doctor and also fear deportation as a result of seeking healthcare. In addition, public health announcements and contract tracing requests that fail to produce culturally and linguistically appropriate information may mislead undocumented immigrants in their intentions. All these challenges decrease an undocumented immigrant’s likelihood of recovery after they are infected with COVID-19.
Get Us PPE Responds to PPE Shortage Crisis
After learning of the lack of financial aid and PPE that the undocumented community receives, Get Us PPE began donating PPE to Californian undocumented immigrants in mid-August. We reached out to undocumented immigrant migrant health clinics and advocacy organizations to donate face masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizer. In turn, these organizations can organize food drives, PPE drives, and service centers events, to distribute PPE throughout the undocumented community.
Please help us get PPE to communities at risk. A $5 donation can supply a mask to a frontline worker.
Need PPE? Complete our form to register your needs anonymously.