New Report Examines the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Immigrants
As we head into our third pandemic summer, Boundless analyzed the continued impacts of COVID-19 on immigration and immigrant communities in the U.S.
During the first year of the pandemic, in 2020, issuances of immigrant visas dropped by 94%. For context, in October 2019, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issued more than 750,000 visas, but by April 2020, that number was down to just over 48,000. What’s worse, the virtual standstill of visa processing in 2020 added nearly half a million people to the already massive visa backlog as of late 2021. And though visa issuances have rebounded since the peak of the pandemic, they still haven’t reached pre-pandemic levels.
The stalling of visa issuances has taken a major toll on the U.S. labor force. From February to April, 2020, the U.S. lost 6 million foreign-born workers from the labor market — a 21% decrease in the overall immigrant workforce. In the following 15 months, the number of work visas issued dropped by 1.2 million, and by the end of 2021, the number of working age immigrants in the U.S. was down by 2 million.
Meanwhile, immigrants within the U.S. kept the country afloat during the pandemic, serving on the frontlines across multiple sectors as “essential workers.” Nearly 1.5 million immigrants work in the U.S. healthcare system, and 73% of U.S. farmworkers are immigrants.
Read the full report on the impacts of COVID-19 on immigrants, the immigration system, and the U.S. economy.
Shepherds Sue Ranching Group Over Cartel-Like Wage Suppression
A Peruvian sheep herder working in the U.S. on a seasonal employment visa has sued a ranching trade group in Nevada federal court, accusing the organization of colluding to fix wages far below the U.S. minimum wage and locking many workers in labor situations amounting to “permanent indentured servitude.”
The lawsuit was filed by Cirilo Ucharima Alvarado, who is looking to form a class of potentially thousands of sheep herders. The suit alleges that the member ranches of the Western Range Association (WRA), secretly agreed to set wages for shepherds at extremely low rates, while also agreeing not to hire from each other member’s ranches, locking the shepherds into a system similar to indentured servitude and violating the federal Sherman Antitrust Act.
The case could have broad implications for antitrust law, which governs monopolies, price and wage fixing, and other anti-competitive business practices.
USCIS Releases New Naturalization Eligibility Fact Sheets
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released 22 new “Eligible to Naturalize” fact sheets on the U.S. green card holder population in certain cities in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. The fact sheets describe various demographic factors of the lawful permanent resident (LPR) population, such as top countries of birth, age, number of years in LPR status, class of admission to the U.S., and more.
The fact sheets are part of USCIS’s broader outreach efforts in cities with large immigrant populations, particularly in the context of citizenship. DHS estimates that there are over 9.2 million green card holders who are eligible to become citizens, and is working with the Biden administration on a wider government initiative to encourage eligible green card holders to apply for citizenship.
June Declared National Caribbean-American Heritage Month
June is National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, and the Biden administration marked this year’s celebration with a Proclamation honoring “the immeasurable ways Caribbean Americans have added to our American dream.”
President Biden also said that June is a time to celebrate “the extraordinary leadership and achievements” of Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black American of Jamaican heritage to hold this high office. The Proclamation went on to honor other “brilliant and dedicated public servants of Caribbeans heritage Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, our Nation’s first Supreme Court Justice of Puerto Rican descent, Sonia Sotomayor, and the late General Colin Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants and the first Black Secretary of State.
“The prosperity and opportunity that draw so many immigrants to America would not be possible without the contributions and legacies of Caribbean Americans,” Biden stated.
TPS Registration Process Announced for Cameroonian Nationals
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week posted the Federal Register notice describing the registration process for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Cameroonian nationals in the United States.
Applicants can file online beginning June 7, 2022 through December 7, 2023. To be eligible, a person must show they have had a continuous residence in the U.S. since April 14, 2022, and have been continuously present in the country since at least June 7, 2022. If an individual arrived in the U.S. after April 14, 2022, they are not eligible under the current designation.
DHS designated Cameroon for TPS for 18 months on April 15 due to “extreme violence perpetrated by government forces and armed separatists, and a rise in attacks led by Boko Haram.” The designation will allow Cameroonian nationals who cannot return home to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation and with work authorization.
Advocates estimate that around 40,000 people could be protected by the designation.