Brooklyn Boro

In New York state, 1.8 million immigrants work in essential businesses

Facing great uncertainty, immigrants work to keep New Yorkers healthy, safe and fed

April 24, 2020 Editorial Staff
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The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) released a new report Friday finding that immigrant workers are a crucial part of New York State’s response to COVID-19. According to the agency’s analysis of 2018 Census data, 1.8 million immigrants in New York work in “essential businesses” and about one-third of the state’s health care workers are immigrants.

The report comes at a time when New York State has been battered by more than 15,000 deaths related to COVID-19.

“This research demonstrates how vital immigrants are to New York’s response to the pandemic,” said CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin. “In the midst of this crisis, immigrants are sustaining our health care, food, manufacturing, and other industries.”

Of the 1.8 million essential foreign-born workers in New York State, more than one million are naturalized citizens, 458,400 are legal noncitizens, and 342,100 are undocumented. A remarkably high proportion of the undocumented labor force in New York (70 percent) works in essential businesses.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The report provides data on essential workers in New York by immigration status and industry. It also shares the stories of three immigrants who are essential workers in New York: a worker at a dairy farm, the manager of a dental office that provides emergency care, and a DACA recipient who works as a clinical laboratory scientist.

“This report shows that immigrants are playing a central role — many risking their lives — in fighting the pandemic and serving their fellow New Yorkers,” Kerwin said. “These same workers will be crucial to the state’s recovery.”

The full report is available at

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