Immigrant healthcare workers are critical in the battle against the current COVID-19 pandemic. Yet on Monday, President Donald Trump indicated he will sign an executive order “to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” due to the coronavirus and to protect American workers. The Trump’s administration crackdown on all types of immigration, including legal immigration, reduced the number of foreign medical professionals and other hospital workers present in the U.S. As the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., the need for healthcare workers is palpable. President Trump later said his executive order will only apply to individuals seeking permanent residency, will last 60 days, and will not impact temporary workers.
Immigrants play a critical role in the healthcare sector. Immigrants who are foreign-born make up 17% of the healthcare workforce overall and make up 24% of direct care work such as nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides as well as 21% of physicians and surgeons, according to the National Immigration Forum. In addition, in coronavirus hotspots like New York and New Jersey, about one-third of Doctors (36% and 35%, respectively) and registered nurses (29% and 35%, respectively) are immigrants. Moreover, DACA recipients — immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children who gained temporary legal resident status — make up nearly 30,000 health care workers across the country.
Interestingly, a majority of Americans favor DACA, a policy that allows immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children to gain legal resident status (63% vs. 36%), according to PRRI 2019 American Values Survey data. However, when Americans were asked about their views on passing a law that places stricter limits on the number of legal immigrants coming to the U.S., Americans are more divided in their views (48% vs 50%). There is variation by partisanship, religious tradition, race, education, gender, age, and region.
Republicans are notably more likely to oppose DACA (56%) and more likely to favor placing stricter limits on legal immigration (69%) than Democrats (23% and 34%, respectively). The same is true for conservatives (55% and 68%, respectively) and liberals (14% and 22%, respectively). Independents and moderates’ views resemble closely Americans in general.
Majorities across religious groups favor DACA (52-75%), except for white evangelical protestants who are less likely to favor this policy and who are notably more likely to favor stricter limits on legal immigration (68%). With the exception of white evangelical protestants and religiously unaffiliated Americans, majorities across religious groups are equally divided in their views regarding a law that places stricter limits on legal immigration. Religiously unaffiliated Americans are more likely to oppose this policy (66% vs. 32%).
Nearly three in four Hispanic Americans (73%) and more than six in ten multiracial Americans (64%), white Americans (61%), black Americans (61%), and Americans who identify as another race (60%) favor DACA. However, when it relates to placing stricter limits on legal immigration, Hispanic Americans (57%) are notably more likely to oppose this policy, compared to white Americans (47%), but these views differ by education among whites. Six in ten (60%) white Americans with college degrees oppose this policy, compared to nearly four in ten (39%) white Americans without a college degree. Black Americans and multiracial Americans are equally likely to favor as to oppose this policy, while Americans of another race are more likely to oppose this policy (57% vs 42%).
While majorities of men (61%) and women (65%) favor DACA, women (46% vs. 52%) are less likely to favor placing stricter limits on legal immigration, compared to men who are divided on this policy (51% vs. 48%).
Majorities of Americans (57-72%) favor DACA across all age groups, whereas support for placing stricter limits on legal immigration vary. Young Americans ages 18-29 (61% vs. 39%) and Americans ages 30-49 (53% vs. 46%) are more likely to oppose rather than favor placing stricter limits on legal immigration, compared to senior Americans ages 65 or over (41% vs. 58%).
Majorities of Americans living across all regions support DACA (60-67%), but Westerners are notably less likely to favor placing stricter limits on legal immigration (40%) compared to Americans residing in other regions. Residents in the Northeast (53% vs. 46%), Midwest (51% vs. 49%), and South (51% vs. 47%) are evenly divided in their support and opposition to this policy.