Millions of Americans were able to work at home and stay safe as the coronavirus pandemic exploded and continues to rage. But at least 1.87 million people kept working in America's farm and food processing industries — 790,000 of whom are immigrants — putting their health on the line to keep America fed, The Center for Public Integrity and Mother Jones report.
About 43 percent of the 1.87 million frontline workers in 10 food processing industries that kept functioning through the pandemic are immigrants, Public Integrity found by analyzing census numbers and other data. A third of them are undocumented. Immigrants make up a far greater portion of these high-risk jobs than they do the total U.S. workforce, leaving them disproportionately likely to contract COVID-19.
And yet the undocumented haven't been compensated for the additional risk they took on during the pandemic. They were left out of the federal government's coronavirus relief packages; Even filing jointly with an undocumented person would erase a citizen or legal resident's stimulus money. Unemployment and local relief programs were also restricted from the undocumented, pushing them to go to work even though meatpacking and other agricultural and food industry jobs often require working side by side. When some workers did fall ill, they either avoided medical treatment or pursued it without health insurance, they tell Public Integrity.